USF2000 Mid-Season Notebook
 June 30, 2011| 
  • Series News

Five Drivers Earn Top Honors
Highlighting the strong level of competition in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, five different drivers representing four teams have so far shared victory spoils. With six of 12 races now in the books, drivers making the trip to Victory Lane include Northern Ireland’s Wayne Boyd of Belardi Auto Racing (Milwaukee), Andretti Autosport American teammates Spencer Pigot (St. Petersburg 1) and Zach Veach (Sebring 1), Australian Luke Ellery of JDC MotorSports (Sebring 2) and the series’ only repeat winner to date this season, Finland’s Petri Suvanto of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing (St. Petersburg 2/Lucas Oil Raceway’s “Night Before the 500”).


High Stakes in Championship Battle
With a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the 2012 Star Mazda Championship – the next step on INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder system – on deck to the winner, it is all about points heading into the second half of the season. Suvanto, 18, currently leads the charge with a 17-point advantage in the standings over 16-year-old Veach. Pigot, 17, lies just one point further in arrears.


In the National Class, 16-year-old newcomer Luca Forgeois continues his dominant performance with Stevenson Motorsports/Pabst Racing Services holding a 29-point lead over J.R. Smart, also of Pabst Racing Services. Ardie Greenamyer of AcceleRace Motorsports lies in third.


The Proof is in the Pudding
Last year’s USF2000 National Champion Sage Karam, is making his mark on the next rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, having won the two most recent races in the Star Mazda Championship at the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway. Karam, 16, currently lies second in the point standings, trailing Frenchman Tristan Vautier by a mere eight points.


USF2000 has been helping young drivers develop their skills for over 20 years. In 2004, Buddy Rice became the first USF2000 grad to drink the traditional bottle of milk at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, followed in successive years by Sam Hornish Jr. and 1999 USF2000 champion Dan Wheldon, who this year won his second Indy 500 driving for Bryan Herta Autosport. Wheldon’s triumph this time around came at the expense of 2006 USF2000 National Champion J.R. Hildebrand, who hit the wall at Turn Four on the final lap while trying to negotiate a slower car (ironically driven by fellow USF2000 alumni Charlie Kimball).


Off-Track Education
In addition to the racing action, USF2000 drivers had an opportunity to learn from the best in  the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Summit. The expanded program, which was held over the course of two race events this year at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis, included:


• Professional media training, provided by Sports Car Stars Training
• Business of Motorsports Seminar, presented by Mazda
• USF2000 Mazda Road to Indy Oval Clinic with instructors Dan Wheldon, Al Unser Jr., Johnny Unser, Steve Knapp and Gerardo Bonilla
• Career Growth and Development, presented by Mike Hull, Managing Director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing
• Tour of Target Chip Ganassi race shop in Indianapolis with a presentation and Q&A by the lead engineers for Target Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti
• Pace car rides with Al Unser Jr. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
• Social media presentation with IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe
• Indy 500 Museum tour with noted racing historian Donald Davidson
• Reception with INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard


Other highlights included a Mazda Road to Indy autograph session on Indianapolis 500 Community Day, a Q&A session with the series points leader, parade laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pace the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights field on Carburetion Day for the ladder system points leaders and “Night Before the 500” winner introductions in front of the Indianapolis 500 crowd only minutes before the start of the race.


Ovals Highlight Series’ Talent
In an effort to properly train drivers for success at the higher levels, USF2000 offers a blend of road/street venues as well as oval events. In preparation for the last two oval rounds of competition on the USF2000 docket  – which saw many in field make their oval debuts – drivers turned over 2500 laps in a series’ test day at Lucas Oil Raceway. The training translated to the race track with only one caution at the Clermont, Ind., track during the “Night Before the 500” and a caution-free, action-packed race at The Milwaukee Mile.


Premier Events Underscore Next Rounds
USF2000 will return to road course competition with a pair of races during an action-packed weekend on August 6-7 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in conjunction with both the IZOD IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series. Following a weekend break, teams will head to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit at Road America on August 19/20 in support of the American Le Mans Series.


USF2000 Drivers Continue to Hone Their Skills
Teenaged Canadian Matthew Di Leo took time off from his USF2000 exploits in late June to contest the latest rounds of the Ontario Formula Ford Championship at Mosport International Raceway in his native Ontario. Di Leo, 16, who regularly drives the #33 Res Precast Van Diemen-Mazda in USF2000 competition for Brian Stewart Racing, finished a close second in the first race, then claimed victory in Race Two, earning both the coveted CanAm Cup and the MK Technologies Driver of the Event Award.


Meanwhile, in order to gain more experience in advance of the next USF2000 races at Mid-Ohio, Andretti Autosport teammates Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach will contest this weekend’s F2000 Championship Series races at the same venue, driving for ArmsUp Motorsports.


"I’m looking forward to competing in the F2000 race this weekend at Mid-Ohio," says Pigot. "It’s going to be a good experience and it will help our run for the USF2000 National Championship which is my main focus. It will be great preparation for the USF2000 race there in August to get a chance to drive the track in racing conditions. ArmsUp Motorsports have been running F2000 cars for a long time so it will be great to see what they have to say about the circuit and cars that could benefit my Andretti Autosport car as well."


Looking Ahead
INDYCAR’s first Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine will be held at Andersen RacePark, owned and operated by series’ promoter Andersen Promotions, on November 28 - 30 giving a top driver from grassroots racing series such as the World Karting Association, Superkarts! USA, the International Karting Federation, Rotax Max Challenge United States, United States Auto Club and the Rock Island Grand Prix the opportunity to compete in the USF2000 series… Andersen RacePark is one of 10 southeastern karting tracks providing an opportunity for karters to secure a spot in the Red Bull Kart Fight at PRI, Powered by Rotax featuring stars from INDYCAR, NASCAR, ALMS, NHRA and more during the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show In Orlando this December… the series’ Cooper Tires Winterfest off-season championship will return in 2012 giving competitors a chance to advance their skills prior to the start of the season; venues for the late January challenge will be announced in the near future.

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