My first race weekend in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship is complete and I would consider it a successful race debut after a pair of races at Barber Motorsports Park. I got my first taste of how truly competitive this series is and will be throughout the season. During one of the practice sessions, the gap from P1 to P20 was .998! So this is by far the most competition I have ever raced against. I had some bad luck at the beginning, but we are able to make really good progress for a great end to the weekend.
Going into qualifying for race one, we struggled with the car setup and found ourselves a bit off the pace. USF2000 hadn’t raced at Barber since 2017 and that’s before Jay Howard Driver Development joined the series, so the team was starting fresh with data and setups. That being said, off pace was only 6 tenths off. That put me p14 to start race one. But during that qualifying session, we were able to work out where we were losing time, and made the car better for Q2.
The second qualifying session was going better, with much more pace in the car and I was up to P4. But about 5 laps in, I had a mechanical issue with the car and was forced to stop on track and bring out the red flag. In the Road To Indy, if you bring out a red flag during qualifying, your fastest 2 laps are deleted. This took my only laps at speed, and my chance to better my time. So, I started race 2 from 23rd out of 26 cars.
In the first race, I got off to a strong start making up 4 spots on lap one. But from there, I struggled to get temperature in my tires which made the car difficult to drive for about the first 10 laps, which included several laps of caution. I lost 2 spots before my tire temps came up, but once my tires came in, I was able to run laps within a few hundredths as the leaders. I was catching the cars in front, but didn’t have enough time to pass them ending my race in P12.
Race 2 was even more exciting! Starting in 23rd meant I had to make quick moves and take advantage of the start. And I did exactly that. I made my way up to P18 on lap one and continued to pick off more from there. I got another 4 cars putting me in P14 at the finish. Barber is a track that is known for being difficult to pass on, especially in sprint races without pit stops, so I am very happy with my results. I was the biggest mover of the race and had the most on track passes. I also had the fastest lap of race for a bit and the 2nd fastest lap until about 3 laps remained. I still ended up 5th quickest, which was faster than the top 4 finishers. By the way, congrats to my friend Prescott Campbell on his 1st win! We raced against each other in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series two years ago. He’s in his 2nd season in USF2000 and is showing the benefit of experience.
Here’s a look from my onboard of the most of the 1st lap of race 2 and about half of the 9 spots I gained for the race and also a few more passes from the weekend.
The quick pace we showed at the end of the weekend gives me a lot of confidence going into our next event. This weekend I will race on the streets of St. Petersburg. This will be my first ever street race, so I am excited for this new experience. While I haven’t been to a street course before, I have tested at Sebring International Raceway, which is very bumpy and often used to simulate street course conditions. The last time I ran at Sebring, I was quick, so hopefully those results will translate over to St. Petersburg.