Victory for Cape Motorsports at Lucas Oil Raceway
 June 2, 2021| 
  • Team News
Cape LOR 2021

Hometown team takes its first win of the season as d’Orlando declares his championship intent

BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Michael d’Orlando scored a decisive victory for Cape Motorsports in their home race on Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway as weather delayed the start of the Cooper Tires Freedom 75, part of the annual Carb Night Classic.

Scoring his first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship pole of the season, d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY) led the four-car Cape Motorsports effort, with team rookies Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.), Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada), and Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) experiencing their first oval racing action on the 0.686-mile circuit.

The 75-lap race originally had been slated for Friday night, a four-race card alongside the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the USAC Silver Crown and Midget series. But as rain showers continued to move through the area throughout Friday afternoon and evening, organizers made the decision to postpone until Saturday, when skies would be considerably clearer.

Qualifying took place in warm and dry conditions late Thursday afternoon, with d’Orlando capturing his second career USF2000 pole position by less than 1/10th of a second ahead of Californian Prescott Campbell. For Kohlbecker, Nepveu and Stamer, it marked their first experience in single-car qualifying and all three acquitted themselves well, starting 11th, 16th and 18th, respectively, in the ultra-competitive 24-car field. The green flag fell shortly before Noon on Saturday, immediately following the Indy Pro 2000 race.

An epic battle between d’Orlando and Campbell ensued at the drop of the green flag, with both drivers showing pace and competitive fire. Campbell pulled alongside numerous times over the course of the race, never quite able to take an advantage from the wily d’Orlando. The racing was clean and close, with several heart-stopping moments. Campbell pulled alongside on lap 30 through traffic, making it three-wide through turns three and four.

The moment of the race came on lap 66, with Campbell ducking to the inside of d’Orlando into Turn One. Coming out of Turn Two and onto the very short back straight, the pair interlocked wheels, with a significant puff of tire smoke bringing the crowd to its feet. In a testament to both cars and drivers, the duo continued, with d’Orlando able to pull a gap and take the hard-fought win with a half-second advantage.

The three rookie Cape drivers had their own share of excitement through the race. Kohlbecker worked his way into a group of five cars battling it out in the early going, with the young Missourian pressuring the cars ahead to make a mistake. Swapping positions for several laps with Matt Round-Garrido and Dylan Christie, Kohlbecker finally made the pass for 11th stick on lap 29 but was not able to reach Christie by the checkered flag.

Nepveu and Stamer battled nose to tail for much of the race’s second half, trying to push forward as a pair. The late going turned into a battle of wills between the teammates, with Stamer making several moves through traffic. The young Canadian held his ground, taking 15th place just ahead of Stamer.

The Cape brothers were happy with the result for all four drivers.

“As usual, Lucas Oil Raceway had its ups and downs,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Qualifying is always exciting and sets the tone for the race. But on Saturday, what a master class of controlling a race, using just enough of the car to stay up front whilst saving enough in the car to have something left at the end – it was an excellent performance by Michael, this really puts him solidly back in the championship hunt. All our drivers performed really well and we are all looking forward to Road America.”

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be a double header at Road America, June 17-20, part of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ REV Group Grand Prix presented by American Medical Response weekend. 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: 4th

“I never thought my first series pole would come on an oval! At that moment, I knew I had the pace, since my quickest times were at the end of the session when the tires were falling off. And to cross the line and realize I’m a winner on an oval in the month of May was so awesome! But man, oval racing is a completely different sport. Prescott gave me such a good fight the entire time, and he drove really well, kudos to him. He really put me on the ropes! It was a great race; he didn’t let up and that made it really interesting. To lock tires with 10 laps to go, my heart just dropped. I was defending my position a bit, but he got his wheel underneath, so I tried to move up and I just held on. Even after that, he never gave up and I’m glad he didn’t.  That whole race was awesome, the 75 laps on the edge of my seat. It was incredible. Huge thanks to the Cape team and all my supporters!”

SPIKE KOHLBECKER – No. 5 Ignite Autosport/Raceway Gives/Tierpoint

Start – 11th / Finish – 11th

Championship standing: 8th

“I really enjoyed my first oval experience. I wish we’d started more toward the front, but I made a couple of mistakes in the qualifying run. We got a bit swarmed at the start and fell back so at that point, I just put my head down and focused on setting good lap times. I worked on alternative lines around the track for the first 20 laps so I would know what worked best when I would need it later in the race. I knew I had more pace than the guys in front of me, but I just couldn’t get past them. I was able to get past Round-Garrido, and almost got Christie near the end, but it was tough to pass. For my first time on an oval, it was a great experience. It’s a different style of racing, especially being on the grip limit the entire race.”

THOMAS NEPVEU – No. 2 Cromwell/Karting Excellence/Home Hardware

Start – 16th / Finish – 15th

Championship standing: 9th

“I definitely learned a lot this weekend. I was over a second off in the first practice, but by qualifying I was only 3/10s off, though on a 22-second lap, that put me 16th. I just have to have more confidence in the car and that will come with more laps on an oval. It was more difficult than I thought – I thought that turning left would be relatively easy, but everyone is so close and since you’re always turning, it’s so mentally difficult. You never get a moment to think, and you can’t make a mistake. Racing on Saturday meant that we didn’t have a warm up, so we didn’t have the chance to practice more racing lines and to see how the car felt in traffic. That would have helped, but I still had a good battle with Evan – I looked in my mirror on lap one and he was there, and he was still there on lap 75, so it was a good challenge to keep him behind me.”

EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing

Start – 18th / Finish – 16th

Championship standing: 24th

“That was a really good experience. There was a lot to learn, racing on an oval for the first time. It’s a different driving technique, and since ovals can bit hard, you don’t want to make a mistake. It’s a mentally tough race so maintaining your focus is key. It helps when you can get into a good zone, just hitting your marks. It was fun battling Thomas – we had similar pace, though he was quicker in three and four and I was quicker in one and two so that made for some good racing. We spent a few laps side-by-side and that definitely added to my learning process.”

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