Victory and the points lead for Cape Motorsports at IRP
 May 31, 2022| 
  • Team News
Cape LOR 2022 Recap

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Cape Motorsports went into the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship weekend on the oval at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park with the points lead. When they left the track late on Friday evening, they’d earned a victory and retention of that lead – albeit with a different driver on top of the title chase.

The team’s quartet of drivers – Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Jagger Jones (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Nicky Hays (Huntington Beach, Calif.), and Jackson Lee (Avon, Ind.) – managed the constantly changing weather conditions to cap a successful weekend for the Brownsburg, Ind.-based team. D’Orlando led the squad with his second straight pole and second straight win on the series’ lone oval to grab the championship lead away from Jones, who lies only 19 points back in third.

“Another fantastic race for all our guys,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Great job by Michael, winning his first race of 2022 and his second LOIRP win in a row, along with both poles. Jagger had a fierce race, ducking, diving and fighting every inch of the way. Jackson had another good race, and a real shame for Nicky having to pull out due to electrical problems.

“We’d really like to thank everyone in our team: Michael, Jagger, Jackson, Nicky, Reg, Jeremy, Brendan, Cassie, Tony, Isaac, Chad and our spotters Colin, David, Brent and Timmy – hard work makes racing an absolutely awesome experience for both Nicholas and myself. Next up, it’s Spotted Cow, brats and cheese curds at the great Road America!”

Friday night marked d’Orlando’s third race at IRP and Lee’s second. Hays and Jones experienced their first series oval event, though Jones has a great deal of experience turning left from his years racing stock cars.

Rain often becomes a focal point of the narrative during the month of May, and the past week has been no exception. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES saw abbreviated practice and qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as teams prepared for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and that trend continued on Thursday at IRP, as test sessions were delayed after torrential downpours hit the area. Skies cleared early in the afternoon and track and series crews worked feverishly to dry the racing surface in time for two 30-minute sessions for both USF2000 and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

D'Orlando set the early quick time, but Hays also impressed, topping d’Orlando’s time in the first 10 minutes. Jones quickly joined his teammates as lap times steadily decreased through the session. The series returned for the second session 40 minutes later, and the team continued to work on qualifying setups. In combined times for the two sessions, d’Orlando, Jones and Hays all ranked in the top five.

Qualifying took the green flag Thursday evening, with grid positions set by the average of two laps. When all 17 cars had made their runs, d’Orlando stood atop the time charts with his sixth series pole position and second straight pole on the oval, with Jones starting sixth, Hays 10th and Lee 13th.

The team returned to the track Friday afternoon for a quick 15-minute warm to finalize race trip setups – a session led by d’Orlando. But shortly thereafter, another storm front went through the area, soaking the track. Again, track equipment dried the racing surface and d’Orlando took the green flag at 8:38 p.m. under cloudy skies and an ambient temperature of 59F.

D'Orlando wasted no time at the drop of the green, heading out to a commanding lead in the early laps. Jones, boxed up in traffic early, made several feints to the low side before making the pass for fifth position on lap 10. Lee took advantage of his experience on the oval to make his way forward in the opening laps, passing teammate Hays who tucked in behind as the duo battled for 12th position in the early going. But on lap 25, Hays experienced a recurrence of an earlier ECU issue, losing power in Turn Two and coasting into pit lane. The team swiftly changed the ECU but another occurrence late in the race sent Hays to the sidelines.

By lap 20, d’Orlando had already reached the back of the field, maneuvering through traffic to hold his lead with second-place Bijoy Garg from DEForce Racing stalking him through the pack. Jones also had his hands full, stuck to the back of Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark in fourth, trying to make a move, while Lee found himself bottled up behind a lapped car.

Through the entire race, Garg hung onto d’Orlando’s rear wing, trying to force a mistake. But d’Orlando drove a perfect race, managing traffic and balancing between looking ahead and keeping a watchful eye behind. He took the checkered flag and a sweep of the weekend points, with Jones coming home fifth, Lee 12th and Hays 17th.

With the victory, d’Orlando took over the points lead, 20 points clear of Pabst Racing’s Myles Rowe and 22 points ahead of Jones.

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be the doubleheader at America’s National Park of Speed, Road America, June 9-12. Tune into USF2000.com for all the action!

QUOTEBOARD

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

Start – 1st / Finish – 1st

Championship standing:  1st (177 points)

“I couldn’t be happier with the whole weekend. After last year, I knew the Cape brothers had a quick car here so hopefully we could do the same thing we did last year, and we did. It was a crazy weekend, with the weather and the delays, but at least it wasn’t as bad as last year, when we came back to race on Saturday! But I’m glad to have been in that situation last year, and again earlier this year in testing, so I was comfortable – and perhaps even had a step up. It was a long day, but you can’t worry about the weather, you just have to take things step by step. But I couldn’t be prouder – and appreciative for all my sponsors who have made it possible for me to be here!

“I’m happy to have the points lead as well, I’ve never had the championship lead before, so I’ll enjoy that for now. It was a great month of May, capped off by seeing the Indy 500 for the second time on Sunday. What a crazy last three laps, I can’t wait to do that one day.”

JAGGER JONES – No. 3 

Start – 6th / Finish – 5th

Championship standing:  3rd (158 points)

“This was very different than anything I’ve done before. I’m glad we had testing time, it was really a learning experience – more than I thought it would be. This car has so much cornering speed compared to the stock cars. I think the stock car experience helped from a racing standpoint, but it’s a completely different car. I did have a higher expectation for the weekend, but a few mistakes on my part in qualifying set us back. Qualifying on a small oval is so important, when it’s so hard to pass. We had a really good race car; I feel as though I had the speed to run with the leaders. We made up a spot, though, so we can’t complain too much.”

NICKY HAYS – No. 5 Touchstone Helicopters/Molecule Sports

Start – 10th / Finish – 17th

Championship standing:  12th (83 points)

“Going into my first-ever oval I felt as prepared as I could be, with the help of the Cape Motorsports team. During our private test on the oval they helped me get up to speed quickly, and we carried that into the race – our car rolled off the truck immediately quick. Qualifying was not representative of the pace we had after a messy lap two, which threw our average off. And unfortunately, in the race we had an issue early on that forced us to retire which was a shame since the team worked so hard and gave me such a great package. More lessons learned, so it’s on to Road America.”

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

Start – 13th / Finish – 12th

Championship standing:  13th (74 points)

“We had a really good car for qualifying, it was capable of a really quick time, but I got caught out by a very big wind gust and I got super loose coming to the flag. It was unfortunate, but given the nature of the oval, that kind of ruined the weekend from there. I was happy with the start and settled in from there. We ran some quick times, passed a few cars and was able to get back to the pack. It’s unfortunately that Nicky had a mechanical, we had a good battle doing. But I had a lot of fun – I love the ovals. Learning how to figure out an oval, especially a small one like Lucas Oil Raceway is a challenge, but that’s why we love it. It makes us better drivers.”

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