Suvanto Seeks to Continue His Dominance at Road America
 August 16, 2011| 
  • Series News

The Latest in a Long Line of Flying Finns Lays Down a Marker at Mid-Ohio


Two weeks after taking control of the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda by dominating the pair of Allied Building Products races at Mid-Ohio, 18-year-old rising Finnish star Petri Suvanto hopes to maintain that momentum when the series takes to another of the country’s premier road courses – the historic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – this weekend. The 4.048-mile track will play host to another pair of 30-minute races, one on Friday and one on Saturday, in support of the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase, highlighted by Round Six of the American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patron.


By the Numbers
In the opening six races of the season, five different drivers shared the victory spoils. As the only two-time winner – in the second race around the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and on the quirky 0.686-mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis – Suvanto had edged away to a 17-point advantage in the championship standings aboard Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s #3 Viseko Van Diemen-Mazda. Suvanto’s latest two victories have spurred him to a commanding 43-point lead with four races remaining.


“I just need to take every race as it comes,” said Suvanto. “To do my best at every race and try to take as many points as possible without taking too big of risks. I believe that is the best way to try to keep the lead. We did a race at Road America last weekend with a FF car, so it is going to be interesting to go there with the downforce of the USF2000 car. It is certainly going to be different but I am excited. I really like the track. It’s not just the track, it’s the history and the place. I have been staying in Elkhart Lake the past seven days and it is a pretty special place.”


Andretti Autosport teammates Spencer Pigot, 17, from Windermere, Fla., and Zach Veach, 16, from Stockdale, Ohio, traded places following the Mid-Ohio weekend, with Pigot now nine points clear of Veach as they lead the chase of Suvanto. Each has won once this season. JDC MotorSports driver Luke Ellery, from Melbourne, Australia, and Belardi Auto Racing’s Wayne Boyd, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, also have visited Victory Lane.


In the National class, for slightly less powerful Zetec-powered cars, Luca Forgeois continues to lead the way with an impressive five wins. The 16-year-old New Yorker currently holds a commanding 38-point lead over his nearest rival.


Megenbier Claims First Podium Finish
A new challenger for top honors emerged during the two most recent races at Mid-Ohio, with Melrose Park, Ill., racer Timmy Megenbier claiming a fourth-place finish on Saturday in Sick Tea Racing’s #17 Rahal Foods/Caputo/Wiscon Corp Van Diemen-Mazda. The 20-year-old Megenbier, winner of the 2009 VW Jetta TDI Cup series, went one better on Sunday to secure his maiden USF2000 podium after catching and passing early season race winner Spencer Pigot.


"It’s been a tough year, setting up a new team from scratch and pretty much running it myself, so it was really good to get back on the podium and show we still have some speed and some potential," said Megenbier, who has made rapid progress this season on his return to open-wheel racing after three years in sedans – including one in Europe in the ultra-competitive VW Scirocco R-Cup.


"The transition has been really hard. I started off still driving the car like it was a sedan, so I’ve had to get used to how different it is. The car is much lighter, there’s no door-rubbing and I’ve had to understand how important the wings are on these cars. Also I’ve had to get used to not using ABS (anti-lock brakes) again.


"We’re getting there and I’m really looking forward to Road America. It’s going to be pretty awesome. All of my sponsors and family come out and it’s more like a get-together with a race going on, but I have a really good comfort level at Road America. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, so hopefully we get on the podium there again – at least!"


ArmsUp Motorsports to Challenge Series Regulars
Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based ArmsUp Motorsports will join the USF2000 series this weekend as the precursor to an anticipated full-season campaign in 2012. ArmsUp will enter Madison, Wis., native Revere Greist in a Championship-class Van Diemen DP07, as well as a pair of National-class veterans, Rick Balsley, from Naples, Fla., in another Van Diemen and Jim Victor, from Davenport, Iowa, in one of the distinctive new RFR chassis.


"All of our drivers love competing and racing at Road America," said ArmsUp Motorsports principal Gregg Borland. "Our intention this year was to run half the season in USF2000 and it didn’t work out for various reasons, but my plan is to run two cars full-time next year and at certain events run some additional National class cars at whatever tracks the guys want to go to.


"I think USF2000 is a fantastic championship," he continued. "The level of professionalism and the quality of the drivers is extremely good. If you want to move up the ranks in open-wheel racing in this country, it’s the perfect series to start in especially with the Mazda support behind it and the chance to win the step up to Star Mazda."


Pabst Team Also Excited About Racing at Home Track
Series regular Pabst Racing Services has high expectations this weekend. Run by second-generation racer Augie Pabst III, the Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team has emerged as the pace-setter in the National class and will field two cars for National points leader Luca Forgeois and veteran J.R. Smart.


"The team and I are looking forward to racing on our home’s our favorite," said Smart, 58, a well-established auto dealer from Madison, Wis., who simply loves the opportunity to compete against all the young chargers. "I have put in so many miles there, I feel like I could drive it blindfolded – although that probably wouldn’t be such a good idea. I won both events there last year and am looking for good results again this year."


"We are really looking forward to racing at our home track," added Pabst, who himself raced in a previous iteration of the USF2000 series in the 1990s. "You can’t beat the fantastic atmosphere of Elkhart Lake and Road America. Our entire team has tons of experience at the track, drivers included, so we expect to be very competitive right from the start.


"Oh, and don’t forget to have a brat or two during the weekend!"


USF2000 Drivers Recognized for Team USA Scholarships
Aside from being embroiled in a tight battle for second in the USF2000 point standings – albeit with expectations of challenging Suvanto for top honors in the closing stages of the season – Andretti Autosport teammates Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach also are vying for the opportunity to represent their country in the end-of-season Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England.


The chance to take on some of the most promising young talent from around the globe is being offered by the Team USA Scholarship. The program is supported by a broad range of individuals, teams, drivers and corporate backers from within the American racing community, and has been providing opportunities for talented young American race drivers since 1990. Past winners include Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Memo Gidley, Andy Lally, A.J. Allmendinger and J.R. Hildebrand.


Pigot won a scholarship in 2010 after winning the Skip Barber National Series, and impressed by taking pole position for the Formula Ford Festival Kent division at Brands Hatch. This time around he is in the running to step up into the more powerful and significantly faster Formula Ford Duratec class.


Pigot and Veach joined several other candidates to be interviewed by an illustrious panel of judges during the Mid-Ohio weekend, including Vasser, Hildebrand, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and ALMS President Scott Atherton.


Weekend Schedule
The first of two races this weekend will commence at 1:05 pm local time on Friday, with the second 30-minute encounter set for a green flag at 9:25 am on Saturday, immediately prior to the ALMS warm up.

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