Victory for Cape Motorsports at Road America
 June 24, 2021| 
  • Team News
Cape RA 2021
  • Thomas Nepveu earns his first series victory
  • Spike Kohlbecker captures his first series podium
  • Michael d’Orlando takes his fourth podium of the season, lies fourth in points
  • Evan Stamer scores his highest finish of the season to date

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Learning any new racetrack is a daunting proposition, but even more so at a four-mile racetrack. Even though two of the four Cape Motorsports drivers were seeing the track for the very first time, the team made quick work of the learning curve at historic Road America, scoring its most successful weekend of the Cooper Tires USF2000 season to date.

Drivers Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.), Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada), and Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) combined to earn three podium finishes in two thrilling races that saw non-stop, exciting action.

"Road America was a fantastic race weekend for the whole team,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “The racing was awesome; we wish all the tracks we went to were more like Road America for the racing! A big thanks to all the crew for their hard work, and a great job by the drivers, especially Thomas. He fought his way into the lead and managed the race and all the pressure right to the end, brilliant job.”

The series conducted two test sessions on Thursday and an official practice Friday morning, allowing the three rookie Cape drivers to learn the intricacies of the expansive 4.048-mile layout, set in the scenic Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin. D’Orlando and Kohlbecker topped the Cape speed charts in qualifying for race one, setting the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Race two qualifying saw three of the Cape drivers in the top 10, with d’Orlando starting fourth, Nepveu seventh and Kohlbecker eighth.

Race One

Despite a torrential downpour that removed all rubber from the racetrack, the field took the green flag in perfect conditions, with temperatures in the low 70s under partial cloud cover.

As the field came to the green flag, the first two rows of the grid each held a pair of teammates, with d’Orlando and Kohlbecker lining up behind DEForce Racing teammates Kiko Porto and Nolan Siegel. With the Cooper Tire rubber at its optimal performance level, the two Cape drivers immediately commenced their charge forward, as d’Orlando dove outside into Turn Three to take second position, with Kohlbecker sticking to his rear wing and grabbing third. Their teammates were on the move as well, with Nepveu pushing up to 10th and Stamer into 20th. The field had only begun to settle into position when two cars back in the field came together, bringing out the yellow flag.

Wasting no time as the Lap 5 restart, d’Orlando pulled alongside Porto going into Turn One. Neither driver was prepared to give in an inch, with both running side-by-side for much of the lap before d’Orlando gained the advantage to capture the lead. But Porto was not willing to let that lead go easily, re-passing d’Orlando going into Turn Two. Meanwhile, Kohlbecker held his ground, keeping an eye both on d’Orlando and Porto ahead and the drivers in his rear-view mirror. Battling the entire race, d’Orlando put as much pressure as he could on Porto, but the young Brazilian didn’t put a foot wrong. The checkered flag flew with d’Orlando taking a hard-fought second place and Kohlbecker earning his first series podium in third, while Nepveu came home 11th and Stamer 18th. With the podium finish, d’Orlando moved into second position in the point standings.

Race Two

It was a very early wake up call for the drivers on Sunday morning, the with green flag flying at 8:00 a.m. ahead of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, but the drivers were clearly feeling racy from the drop of the flag. What ensued was one of the most exciting races in recent series history.

Nepveu and Stamer made the biggest gains on the early corners, as Nepveu moved up from seventh to fourth and Stamer from 19th to 13th, while d’Orlando fell from fourth to fifth in the early scrum. Unfortunately, Kohlbecker and Yuven Sundaramoorthy made contact on that first lap, with Kohlbecker coming into pit lane to replace his front wing as the caution flag waved.

On the restart, Nepveu was a man on a mission, grabbing third position in Turn One. Heading into Turn Five, Nepveu and Prescott Campbell dove to the inside of leader Porto, making it a heart-stopping three-wide heading into the corner. Nepveu made the pass stick, taking his first series lead. Porto remained glued to his rear wing, as the pair exchanged the lead several times on Lap Five until Campbell rejoined the fray, ducking to the inside to take the top spot in Canada corner. But not for long, as Nepveu made the perfect pass in Turn Two to retake the lead.

With the DEForce Racing teammates (Porto, Campbell and Siegel) battling for second, Nepveu pulled out a 1.3 second lead, while teammate Stamer enjoyed a spirited battle for 11th with Myles Rowe and Sundaramoorthy. But late in the race, Simon Sikes appeared in Nepveu’s rear view mirror, and the pair began an enthralling six-lap, back and forth, close and intense battle, both drivers intent on capturing their first Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires victory. In the end, it was Nepveu who prevailed, taking the win by the smallest of margins (0.0679 seconds). Kohlbecker recovered to finish eighth, with Stamer earning his best finish of the season in 11th, and d’Orlando coming home a disappointing 22nd after a mid-race incident damaged his front wing.

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be the triple header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course July 1 to 4. Tune into USF2000.com for all the action!

QUOTEBOARD

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

Race 1: Start – 3rd / Finish – 2nd

Race 2: Start – 4th / Finish – 22nd

Championship standing:  4th

“Race one was amazing! I have to give big props to Kiko, he raced super well. He hit every mark, it was incredible racing. On that restart, we were side-by-side for half a lap, all the way from Turn Five to Turn 10. Absolutely insane, but a lot of respect out there. He was super fast and once he got out of my tow; I just couldn’t catch him. But on that last lap I was able to pull out fast lap, I just got a little bit of the tow. Thanks to everyone at Cape Motorsports and all my supporters – earning a podium at Road America, with all these fans here is awesome.  Sunday wasn't quite the day we were looking for. An incident on both the start and restart hindered my race up front and we had to pit to replace my front wing after some contact. I know we had the pace to finish up front but I am super proud of Thomas. He drove super well that race. Let's get it at Mid Ohio!"

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

Race 1: Start – 5th / Finish – 3rd

Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 8th

Championship standing:  7th

“I drove a part of Road America with Team USA three years ago, so I worked on the sim and had the test day Thursday to figure things out. That race one start was wild! I definitely upped my aggression for this event and started taking a few more risks. That opening lap, I just sent it up the inside going into Turn Five and I made it stick – even though we were three-wide going into Five! That was a bit of an ordeal we had going there. I had my mirrors full but held my own and held them off, so I’m really happy to get my first podium. Sunday was a bit of a debacle at the start that caused everyone to stack up. In Turn Five, the guy in front of me turned, I nicked him and it took the rear wing off. Then I got hit from behind. I had to pit for a front wing but luckily it was on a yellow which allowed me to catch up a bit and get a top 10 result. But the car that Cape put together was amazing, we really had pace the entire weekend. It was a great points weekend for the team, we’re all really working in a line and we’ll continue what we’re doing as we get ready for Mid-Ohio.”

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

Race 1: Start – 13th / Finish – 11th

Race 2: Start – 7th / Finish – 1st

Championship standing:  9th

“It was an amazing feeling Sunday, I really have no words. I’ve been working toward this since I joined the series and I didn’t think it would come this fast. The Cape guys gave me a great car, it was on rails. It’s been good all week but I couldn’t put it together – but it all came together Sunday. I had a great start, and that really set up the whole race. Then I had a great restart, going from fourth to third on the front straight and got the two other DEForce guys on the back straight. They’ve been so quick all week long. From there on, it was just about holding the position. Once I was able to get away a bit, I was just hitting my marks and focusing forward, and I got a good gap until Simon caught me. I saw him coming in my rear-view mirror and once he got by Prescott, I knew it was going to be tough. I just had to focus and defend the best I could, and we got the result we were looking for.”

EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing

Race 1: Start – 22nd / Finish – 18th

Race 2: Start – 19th / Finish – 11th

Championship standing:  22nd

“This weekend was another great learning opportunity. I saw the track for the very first time on Thursday, and it was a lot of racetrack to learn! It’s a bit intimidating, very high speed, and there are so many passing zones so drivers are duking it out the entire race – but it made for really good racing! I made a few mistakes in Sunday’s race that may have cost me a top 10, but we know we have the pace now. I’m really getting up to speed and I’m happy with my progress. But we put it all together Sunday, it was a solid performance – not just for me, but for the whole team. I had some great battles with Myles and Yuven, and Billy Frazer, they’re all very aggressive and consistently in the top 10 so that was more good experience for me. And it was great to see all the fans this weekend, all the families that were out there. It makes it that much more exciting!"

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