Taylor Scores a Stylish First USF2000 Victory at Indianapolis
 May 10, 2024| 
  • Series News
Indy_USF2000_Race1_start
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Continental Tire Grand Prix of Indianapolis doubleheader for USF2000 began in dramatic fashion this afternoon with Max Taylor taking an accomplished victory for VRD Racing. Taylor, from Hoboken, N.J., took the lead in Turn One immediately following an early full-course caution and a restart, then quickly established his authority to claim an overdue maiden victory.

Exclusive Autosport’s Joey Brienza, from Golden, Colo., overcame a poor qualifying position to finish second ahead of teammate Evan Cooley, from Frankfort, Ill., who made an impressive USF2000 debut by qualifying on pole position.

Cooley’s primary commitment in his first full season of car racing is to USF Juniors Presented by Continental Tire in which he has recorded one top-five finish from the opening five races. But with an eye to the future, he entered this weekend’s USF2000 event and immediately made an impression by posting the fastest time in qualifying earlier this morning to secure the Continental Tire Pole Award.

Cooley led the first three laps under caution following a midfield accident even before the green flag, and while his initial restart was good, he was unable to prevent the more experienced Taylor, who started third, from taking the lead in Turn One with a bold move around the outside under braking.

Behind, Brienza made extraordinary progress at the first corner after lining up a disappointing seventh on the grid due to his best lap in qualifying being thwarted by a red flag. Brienza followed Taylor on the outside line, braking deeper into the right-handed Turn One than the majority of his rivals and sweeping past outside front row starter – and Exclusive Autosport teammate – Thomas Schrage, from Bethel, Ohio, to vault all the way to third.

Taylor duly completed the first proper lap of racing with a handy lead, only it was Brienza who followed in second after Cooley found himself shuffled down to sixth position behind Schrage, Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, and VRD Racing’s Canadian Nico Christodoulou.

Farther back in the pack, a mistake by Naples, Fla., rookie Michael Costello (Jay Howard Driver Development) under braking at Turn Seven sent championship leader Max Garcia (Pabst Racing) spinning and delayed several other contenders in the midfield.

A variety of other minor incidents during the 15-lap race resulted in some major shuffling of the pack, but the race remained green and there was no stopping Taylor, who followed up a strong weekend last month at NOLA Motorsports Park, where he earned a podium finish, by speeding home to a well-deserved win.

Taylor also secured another PFC Award for team owner Dan Mitchell, whose VRD organization has now won five of the last seven USF2000 races on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road circuit.

Brienza was similarly untroubled in second place, finishing well clear of Cooley, who picked off, firstly, 2023 Indy race winner Sam Corry (VRD Racing), from Cornelius, N.C., and then Papasavvas.

Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla., mounted an incredible comeback following his early spin to climb from 19th to sixth at the finish, three places ahead of where he started, although the Tilton Hard Charger Award went to DEForce Racing’s Brady Golan, from Austin, Texas, who steered clear of the midfield carnage and rose from 19th on the grid to eighth

The second leg of the Continental Tire Grand Prix of Indianapolis doubleheader will see the green flag tomorrow morning at 8:55 a.m. EDT.

Provisional championship points after 6 of 18 races:
1. Max Garcia, 154
2. Evagoras Papasavvas, 142
3. Sam Corry, 128
4. Max Taylor, 96
5. Joey Brienza, 94
6. Nico Christodoulou, 87
7. Elliot Cox, 77
8. Quinn Armstrong, 67
9. Hudson Schwartz, 63
10. Ayrton Houk, 60

Max Taylor (#3 PINK ETF/Susan G Komen Foundation-VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “My plan was to get into the lead as fast as I could and I did just that. I got to the lead and had a little battle with Evan and just checked out and put some good laps in. The VRD car just drove itself really. I put cruise control on and just left. It is an amazing feeling to do this here. I couldn’t have dreamed it any different. I want to thank everyone at VRD for putting together a rocket ship of a car and a great program together, all of my sponsors and my parents for coming out here and my sister as well.”

Joey Brienza (#91 Huntsman Mental Health Foundation/UBS-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-22): “It was a good race. I got a lot of spots at the start and went from P7 to P3 on the first lap. I was able to get Cooley at the end of the first lap, so five spots on the first lap. I settled in but didn’t have an answer for P1 today. Nevertheless, seventh to second is something I am happy about and a pretty good recovery from qualifying. We’ll do some work tonight and figure out where we can get the final few tenths. I want to thank Exclusive Autosport, all of my sponsors – Huntsman Mental Health, Corpay, UBS – my parents as well for their continued support and all my friends who came out to watch me this weekend.”

Evan Cooley (#90 ITI Intermodal-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-22): “The start was okay. Max got around to my outside and we made a little bit of contact. I had a little bit of damage and fell back, but we were pretty fast. We carved back through the field and were able to finish third. I would like to thank Michael and Kimberly (Duncalfe) and everyone at Exclusive Autosport. We have a rocket ship of a car this weekend and I am excited for Race 2 tomorrow.”
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