LEXINGTON, Ohio – No one came close to challenging the current dominance of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship leader Christian Rasmussen this afternoon at the first of three midweek races which will comprise the USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders. Rasmussen, 20, from Copenhagen, Denmark, quickly moved up from his third-place starting position for Jay Howard Driver Development, overtook pole winner Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing) on the third lap, then simply drove away into the distance at the challenging 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Second-generation Brazilian racer Barrichello held on for a career-best second-place finish, despite a determined challenge from 15-year-old Floridian Reece Gold who also secured his best result to date for Cape Motorsports.
The standalone triple-header race meeting for the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires began with a 30-minute practice session this morning, followed a couple of hours later by qualifying. Barrichello, 18, was fastest in both to clinch his first-ever Cooper Tires Pole Award. Gold was just 0.0045 of a second adrift to ensure a starting position on the outside of the front row. After winning both season-opening races from the pole at Road America earlier this month, Rasmussen had to be content with a position on row two of the grid alongside Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports).
Barrichello made a good start to maintain his position at the front, but it wasn’t long before Rasmussen was looming large in his mirrors. On the third lap, Rasmussen made a bold move around the outside over the crest of the hill at Turn Five, which ensured he would have the inside line as the two leaders plunged downhill again into Turn Six. It was a fine maneuver, and thereafter he was in a class of his own as he set and reset fastest lap of the race before finally taking the checkered flag a massive 12.7818 seconds clear of Barrichello.
Rasmussen’s magnificent effort ensured a third successive PFC Award for team owner Jay Howard, who himself is a former champion in both USF2000 and Indy Lights.
Barrichello looked to have second place fairly comfortably within his grasp at the halfway point in the 20-lap race. But Gold had other ideas. The youngster from Miami, Fla., closed inexorably during the final stages without ever quite getting close enough to cause Barrichello too much concern.
Behind, Gold’s teammate d’Orlando also was part of the battle until he had to fend off the attentions of Matt Round-Garrido (Pabst Racing). After starting a lowly 15th, the Englishman made rapid progress through the order, earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award as he finished fifth, hot on the heels of d’Orlando.
Unfortunately, another Cape vs. Pabst battle had ended in tears early in the race when Josh Green, a podium finisher at Road America, tangled with Yuven Sundaramoorthy in the Carousel on the opening lap.
Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), from Santa Clarita, Calif., finished a distant sixth, followed closely by Kyle Dupell (Cape Motorsports), with USF2000 debutant Kiko Porto, from Brazil, taking eighth for DEForce Racing. Australian Cameron Shields (Legacy Autosport) and Californian Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development) completed the top 10.
Spare a thought also for Jack William Miller, who displayed prodigious pace – setting the second fastest lap of the race – for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports. Unfortunately, he finished two laps off the pace in 16th after his car had failed to fire up on the starting grid.
Miller, and others, will have another opportunity to shine tomorrow when the action continues with a second qualifying session at 8:00 a.m. to establish the grid for Round Four, which is set for 11:30 a.m. The starting order for Round Five, which will start at 3:15 p.m., will be determined according to each driver’s fastest race lap in Round Four.
Provisional championship points after three of 17 races:
1. Christian Rasmussen, 97
2. Eduardo Barrichello, 65
3. Michael d’Orlando, 61
4. Matt Round-Garrido, 55
5. Josh Green, 51
6. Cameron Shields, 41
7. Reece Gold, 38
8. Kyle Dupell, 32
9. Prescott Campbell, 30
10. Christian Brooks, 29
Christian Rasmussen (#6 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-17): “I’m so happy with the result, pulling it off again today. I had a great car right off the truck and made a few changes after qualifying, and they were spot on so thanks to the team. It was a short day but I have so many laps here between tests, USF2000 and F4, so I know my way around. The plan is always to win so today definitely went according to plan – I got around Reece at the start, then Eduardo made a small mistake and I managed to get by, but it’s those small things that make the race. The plan for tomorrow is to go for two more!”
Eduardo Barrichello (#22 Ale-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17): “It was almost a perfect day. I just didn’t get the win. P1 in practice and P1 in quali with a mega lap. The car was very, very good, but it was my fault, a lack of experience being at the front. I pushed too hard too early and had oversteer that made it possible for Christian to get past me – but he’s an amazing driver, so congratulations to him and the team. We make mistakes and then we learn from them, so tomorrow I’ll come back and go for the win.”
Reece Gold (#3The Ticket Clinic-Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17): “It feels awesome to get my first series podium. I had a good gap at the start and just really wanted to keep it, especially after the problems we had in the first race at Road America. I’m happy to finally get this podium and get the points. It was a short day, and a tense day, but I felt confident after our practice this morning. Hoping for more of the same tomorrow.”
About the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires: Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020, the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is one of the most successful driver development programs in the world. Comprised of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the ladder system provides a unique, scholarship-funded path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES grid is comprised of numerous drivers who have come through the Road to Indy. In 2019, 23 of the 33 starters in the Indianapolis 500 were graduates including nine Indy Lights champions. The mission of the Road to Indy is to develop and advance, and that includes not only drivers but teams and personnel as well. More information can be found at http://www.roadtoindy.info, http://www.indylights.com, http://www.indypro2000.com, http://www.usf2000.com, http://www.roadtoindy.tv and http://www.indycar.com.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track in rally, rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. Connect with Cooper on Twitter and Instagram by following @TeamCooperTire or visit our website at http://www.coopertire.com.