Perdigão and Veach Snare Victories at Sebring JDC MotorSports’ Vinicius Perdigão of Bahia, Brazil and Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach of Stockdale, Ohio won the first two rounds of the five-race Cooper Tires Winterfest Monday and Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway as some of the teams in the “Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda” prepared for the 2011 season-opening doubleheader to be held at the same venue March 17-18. Those races will support the American Le Mans Series’ Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the most popular endurance sports car race in North America.
Veach won the Cooper Tires “Don’t Give Up a Thing” Pole Award on both Monday and Tuesday but Perdigão holds the points lead going into the second half of the Winterfest Jan. 12-13 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. The young Brazilian was able to finish third in Tuesday’s 13-lap race, behind Veach and Veach’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Spencer Pigot of Windemere, Fla., while Veach didn’t finish Monday’s 12-lap race due to gearbox issues.
Arms Up Motorsports’ Trent Hindman of Wayside, N.J. finished second on Monday while Matthew DiLeo of Innisfil, Ontario, who drives for Brian Stewart Racing, took the final podium position that day.
Pabst Racing Services’ J.R. Smart of Fitchburg, Wis. took the National class honors both days with twin fourth-place finishes.
Pigot, a MAZDASPEED Motorsports scholarship winner, started second in Monday’s race but he was leading as the pack jockeyed out of Turn 1 on the first lap. Veach dropped from first to third in the tussle while Perdigão moved from fourth to second. Hindman lost a spot and fell to fourth initially.
Within a lap Veach retook the top spot and Pigot fell back to his original starting spot, second.
That’s the way things remained until lap five when mechanical difficulties struck Veach’s Van Diemen, leaving him parked off course for the duration of the race and wondering what he’d done to deserve such bad luck.
Pigot’s inherited lead lasted all of one lap as his car developed gearbox issues too, forcing him to the sidelines. Perdigão found himself alone in the top spot at that point and he went on to post his first victory in a car race.
Things were interesting behind him. Hindman, driving an entry from Arms Up Motorsports, a Wisconsin-based team well known for preparing multiple top cars for various SCCA activities, was in second when the 15-year-old driver had to pit on lap nine for his crew to replace a flat right-rear tire. He lost just one spot, to DiLeo in the Brian Stewart entry, but he regained it two laps later when DiLeo’s Van Diemen developed clutch issues and retired to the pits on lap 11. Although DiLeo was primarily focused on simply getting the bugs out of his brand-new car he was still able to post the first USF2000 podium finish for Brian Stewart Racing, a Canadian-based team which is perhaps best known for its many accolades in Firestone Indy Lights.
Veach’s luck was all good on Tuesday. He had a commanding 10.144-second margin of victory over Pigot for an Andretti Autosport one-two finish on Tuesday from the pole, although it wasn’t quite as easy as they made it look.
Hindman held the top spot in qualifying until he went off in Turn 10 and damaged his car enough that it couldn’t be repaired in the short turnaround time between quals and the race.
This time Veach had a spectacular start and it was DiLeo who encountered problems initially, as he fell to last. He regained his fourth starting spot on lap four but retired on lap eight with mechanical issues.
Veach was long gone by that time and he posted his first USF2000 victory a few minutes later. Perdigão closed the gap on Pigot and made it interesting for the closing laps, but the two youngsters from Andretti Autosport, the defending USF2000 team champion, were not to be denied.
Heading into Homestead the points leader is Perdigão with 53 points followed by DiLeo with 39, Veach with 36, Pigot with 26 and Hindman with 25. Smart has 48 points in the National class. With three races to go at Homestead, it’s still anyone’s title.
Team points have Andretti Autosport leading with 42 followed by JDC MotorSport, 37; Brian Stewart, 25; Pabst, 24, and Arms Up, 18.
Andersen Promotions, administrators of the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, staged the Winterfest to give the USF2000 teams and drivers an opportunity to do some testing, get acquainted and see first-hand how the series operates.