Suvanto Profits from Ellery’s Misfortune to Win a Thriller at the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval
 May 29, 2011| 
  • Series News

Finland’s Petri Suvanto extended his lead in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda by virtue of a fine victory under the lights on Saturday night as part of the traditional “Night Before the 500" at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.


But spare a thought for Luke Ellery. The young Australian rookie had missed the series’ test at the beginning of the month due to budget constraints and consequently had never driven on an oval before Friday’s opening practice session. You would never have known. Ellery qualified fourth in the #85 Melbourne IT/ Line Oil/JDC Motorsports Van Diemen-Mazda, and after slipping to sixth at the start, he charged through the field in magnificent style, grasping the lead from pole-sitter Suvanto with a bold maneuver amid traffic on lap 28.


Ellery never managed to eke out much of a margin over Suvanto’s Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car but was still running confidently in the lead on Lap 47 when the slower car of Rodin Younessi, from Palm Beach, Fla., spun in Turn Three, then slid up the racetrack directly into Ellery’s path. A distraught Ellery was out on the spot.


“I don’t know how I’m going to explain to everyone back home what happened,” said Ellery. “We had the best car out there and I just got taken out. It’s just so disappointing.”


Fortunately, both drivers escaped injury in the high-speed accident.


After a lengthy cleanup, 18-year-old Suvanto was challenged at the restart by Zach Veach’s #7 Team Zakosi Data Backup/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen before edging clear to become this season’s first repeat winner.


Ellery’s JDC Motorsports teammate, Colombian Juan Piedrahita (#19 Petrosur/GFK Motors/Montopharma/Colombia es pasion/Red Line Oil Van Diemen) finished a strong third in the 69-lap race, which was delayed by more than two hours due to a heavy rain shower shortly before the scheduled 7:15 start time.


Piedrahita just held off a determined challenge from the #8 Team MAZDSPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen of 2010 Skip Barber National Series Champion Spencer Pigot and the #4 DHL/Belardi Auto Racing entry of former British Formula Ford Champion Wayne Boyd.


Fifteen-year-old Luca Forgeois, from New York, N.Y., sped to a dominant victory in the National Class – his fourth in five races this season – on his debut with the Pabst Racing Services team.


Suvanto now holds a 16-point advantage over Spencer Pigot as the series heads to another oval race for Round 5 at the famed Milwaukee Mile on June 19.


Petri Suvanto, #3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing (Started 1st, Finished 1st): “It was an amazing day. I had a problem with my radio and I couldn’t really hear my team. For the first half of the race I thought Veach was second, so I was trying to save my tires and wait for the second half of the race. But then suddenly Luke came past me in traffic. I was still trying to save the tires and hoping he would make a mistake. Unfortunately for him, someone spun in front of him and he had nowhere to go. It still wasn’t easy at the end because Veach was right with me. I would say when I crossed the [finish] line it was the best moment of my life so far; I was very relieved. I never expected oval racing to be this hard mentally. Every lap I learned something. It was great.”

Zach Veach, #7 Team Zakosi Backup/Andretti Autosport (Started 2nd, Finished 2nd): “We had a good car. We were just a little off Petri but I think we have really good momentum for Milwaukee, and if we can keep this up we should be battling for the championship in the last few races. The yellow [full-course caution] really helped me because it gave me a chance to cool the tires and settle things down. We had a good car; we were just missing a little bit.”


Juan Piedrahita, #19 Petrosur/GFK Motors/Montopharma/Colombia es pasion/Red Line Oil/JDC Motorsports (Started 3rd, Finished 3rd): “To finish on the podium is really, really exciting; and running on an oval at night was a lot of fun. It was pretty exciting. We were right on the limit. I had a pretty decent start but [Spencer] Pigot came past me on the outside; he was flying.  The slower cars played a really important role during the race. I got back past Pigot in some traffic. I’m really sorry for [teammate] Luke [Ellery]. He did a really good job.”


Luca Forgeois, #5 Café Noir/Pabst Racing Services (Started 1st, Finished 1st - National Class): “It was crazy! My first time on an oval was yesterday [for practice]. I thought I was going to be off the pace but I was pretty happy. I crashed this morning – I was too hungry – but the team did a great job. They told me to calm down. I know I could have gone faster in the race but I had a job to do: to win the National class. I lapped the competition and then I backed it off to bring it home to the finish. I learned a lot, especially under pressure in the race.”


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