Solid Season Opener for Cape Motorsports
 March 1, 2022| 
  • Team News
Cape StP Recap 2022

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Cape Motorsports returned to its former hometown last weekend with one goal: re-establish its traditional position in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship discussion.

Drivers Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Jackson Lee (Avon, Ind.) Nicky Hays (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Jagger Jones (Scottsdale, Ariz.) took to the unforgiving 1.8-mile street circuit each with their own game plan. For sophomores d’Orlando and Lee, it was about capitalizing on previous experience, while rookies Hays and Jones worked to get up to speed in a new car, on a new racetrack, in a new series.

When the checkered flag fell on the two-race season opener, the team had done just that – with three of the four drivers in the top 10 in points and a podium finish for Jones. After a wild two races, including a race two that saw only 10 of 20 laps under green, that the team placed four undamaged Tatuus USF-22 race cars into the transporter on Sunday afternoon felt like a victory.

“It is always great to race in St Pete – we get to see so many of the friends we have, which is always awesome,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Overall, a really good effort by everyone. Michael had the main chassis harness fail when he came in for the second set of tires (during qualifying), and Nicky had the engine harness fail as well, a real shame for them both. But Jagger went really well in qualifying for his second session, just missing pole by 0.05 of a second after tagging the wall on his best lap. Michael had two really strong races coming from that far back, Jagger learned a lot in the first race and put it to good use for race two, Jackson really found his way in race two as well, and Nicky did a get job. We are really happy to get out of St Pete with good points to start the season on the right foot.”

The series’ lone qualifying session took place early Friday morning. Midway through the session, d’Orlando experienced an electrical issue that put him on the sidelines, watching his time fall through the field. Jones led the team with a P5 starting position, with d’Orlando P7, Lee P14 and Hays P16. With 19 cars heading into the tight turn one, the right balance of patience and aggression would be key.

Race One

Taking the green flag later in the afternoon, the field impressively made it through the tight first lap cleanly. Jones fell back to 10th early after catching one of St. Pete’s notorious curbs, while d’Orlando lost momentum early as well. Both drivers worked hard to regain positions, with d’Orlando able to get back to sixth. But on the final lap, the two leaders came together in turn two, with d’Orlando performing several quick maneuvers to avoid the debris field. At the checkered flag, d’Orlando had just missed a podium spot in fourth, with Jones P8, Lee P12 and Hays P15.

Race Two

Starting positions for race two were set by the quickest of two laps: the second-fastest lap in qualifying or the fastest race lap. Jones would start the race P4, with d’Orlando P8, Lee P13 and Hays P16. In a portent of what was to come, the first of three caution flags flew before the race even went green, as a car stalled on track.

The second yellow flag came for a car that careened into the runoff in turn four – unfortunately, that severely impeded Lee, who had to make avoidance maneuvers that sent him to the back of the field, but Hays took advantage of the chaos around him to fight his way to 10th. Going back to green, d’Orlando made a move that put him into fifth position, right behind teammate Jones. But green flag racing didn’t last long, as a multi-car incident put the field back behind the pace car on lap four.

On the restart, Jones made a move into third, with d’Orlando hot on his heels. The pair engaged the fight for the final podium position for several laps, taking care to keep in mind that debriefing together would take place under the Cape tent after the race. Meanwhile, rookie Hays was finding his way with the new car and new racetrack, carving his way up through the field, up to sixth by lap eight. Lee was also on a charge, recovering from the early misfortune to reach ninth position, putting all four Cape drivers into the top 10.

All four drivers saw their battles cut short however, by a five-car incident on lap eight that took several laps to clean. The green flag fell for good on lap 11, and by lap 15, Lee was able to make the pass on Hays for seventh position. Jones continued to fend off d’Orlando and at the checkered flag, it was Jones who brought home the team’s first podium of the new season, finishing third with d’Orlando P4, Lee P7 and Hays P8.

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be the two-race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, April 29 – May 1. Tune into USF2000.com for all the action!

QUOTEBOARD

MICHAEL D’ORLANDO – No. 4 Focused Project Management/UFC Gym

Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 4th

Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 4th

Championship standing:  3rd

“We had an electrical problem in qualifying that put us down in the field, but thanks to the Cape team for fixing it and giving me a fantastic car for race one. I was lucky to bring it home – there were parts flying everywhere right in front of me when the frontrunners hit. It wasn’t a bad finish, given where I started. Sunday was a really solid day. Starting eighth, I knew that I had to move forward and finish in a good points position which I did, though the yellows really reduced the time I had to make it happen. We had a great race, and a great battle with my teammate Jagger, and P4 isn’t bad, knowing where I had to come from.

JAGGER JONES – No. 3 

Race 1: Start – 5th / Finish – 8th

Race 2: Start – 4th / Finish – 3rd

Championship standing:  5th

“It was a tricky first race in an open wheel car, learning the racing here on a tough and very consequential track. But we had a really good race, I just have to be more aggressive in the opening laps. (Re the battle with teammate Michael d’Orlando) I knew that if I hit my marks he wouldn’t be able to get to me. I saw him go to the inside really deep so I checked up, trusted my instincts, stayed disciplined, crossed him over and drove away from there. I wish we had a few more laps – I don’t know if I would have been able to catch the guys in front but I would have liked a shot. The Cape Motorsports guys gave me a great car all weekend. It’s been a learning curve for me so I’m just happy with the chance to improve. Eighth in the first race, third in the second and a much better race. I felt much more confident Sunday so I’m looking for that improvement all season long.”

JACKSON LEE – No. 2 IU Simon Cancer Center / Browning Chapman / Race for RP

Race 1: Start – 14th / Finish – 12th

Race 2: Start – 13th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing:  10th

“That first caution changed the balance of my entire race, but I was really happy with how the car felt and I was able to make a comeback. Very happy to find that pace in the end. The team really helped me throughout the weekend – we grabbed some good points in the end. I know I need to come out of the gate stronger but I think I found what I need to do in order to make that happen. I’m looking forward to putting that to the test at Barber!”

NICKY HAYS – No. 5 Touchstone Helicopters/Molecule Sports

Race 1: Start – 16th / Finish – 15th

Race 2: Start – 16th / Finish – 8th

Championship standing:  12th

“I had one big wreck right in front of me today, so super happy to come away from this weekend with no damage! I went from 16th to 10th on the first lap and just continued to pick off cars was my plan. This weekend was all about keeping the car off the wall so to come home P8 in race two after starting in the back, that’s good points. It was nice to get into the top 10 and come away with no damage! The Capes did a great job on pre-race prep and throughout the weekend. I just need more time in the car – when you’re either defending or attacking during the race, you can’t focus on technique, but we have some tests coming up ahead of Barber so I can work on understanding the car. I’m really looking forward to that weekend!”

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