Championship Battle Heats Up in USF2000 Competition
The Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda heads to the famed Milwaukee Mile this week for Round 6 of what is proving to be a hotly contested title chase. The full Mazda Road to Indy contingent will be on hand to do battle on the 1.0-mile oval in support of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Milwaukee 225 with USF2000, Star Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights all holding races on Sunday as a precursor to the headline event.
USF2000 is coming off its first oval event of the season – the traditional “Night Before the 500” at Lucas Oil Raceway on May 28 – which saw the year’s first repeat winner as 18-year-old Finnish driver Petri Suvanto garnered top honors in his oval debut aboard the #3 Viseko entry for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Suvanto, whose worst finish this season was third in Round 2 at Sebring, now holds a 16-point advantage in the championship standings.
Hot on his heels are the Andretti Autosport duo of Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach. Pigot, the 2010 Skip Barber National Series Champion, currently sits second in the championship by virtue of a win in Round 3 at St. Petersburg and three additional podiums in the #8 Team MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber Van Diemen. Only 10 points behind, Veach is also no stranger to the podium with a win in Round 1 at Sebring and two additional top-three finishes including a second-place drive at Lucas Oil Raceway aboard the #7 Team Zakosi Data Backup entry.
“The ‘Night Before the 500’ was a good points race for me and we made up a lot of ground,” said Veach, 16, of Stockdale, Ohio. “Working hard and staying on the podium these next few races is going to be crucial to my championship challenge. I know it will be a battle all the way until the last checkered flag! Milwaukee is going to be a fun race especially with the full Mazda Road to Indy ladder series there. It gives us drivers another great opportunity to get in front of the fans and the teams.
“I am honored to announce that The Young Marines just signed onto my program for the balance of the season so I’m really excited to put a strong result in for them this weekend and, with the storied history at Milwaukee, to be part of that, too!”
Rounding out the top five in the standings currently are former British Formula Ford Champion Wayne Boyd with Belardi Auto Racing and Luke Ellery of JDC MotorSports. Australia’s Ellery looked set to claim his second win of the season in the last event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis until an incident involving a slower car collected his #85 Melbourne IT/Luke-Ellery.com/Red Line Oil Van Diemen-Mazda.
Only 25 points separate positions five through 10 in the championship. Drivers to watch include JDC Motorsports’ Colombian standout Juan Piedrahita (#19 Petrosur/GFK Motors/Montopharma/Colombia es pasion/Red Line Oil Van Diemen) who finished third in his oval debut at Lucas Oil Raceway, 16-year-old karting star Matthew Di Leo (#33 Res Precast entry for Brian Stewart Racing), 2009 SCCA VW Jetta TDI Cup Champion Timmy Megenbier (#17 Sick Tea/Rahal Foods/Caputo/Wiscon Corp Sick Tea Racing entry) and 21-year-old Shannon McIntosh (#2 Glass Hammer Racing (beatbyagirl.org)/Indy 500: An American Icon with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing).
McIntosh has garnered recent national headlines as one of five finalists out of 35,000 entries for Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” real girl cover contest. She is competing to be on the cover of Seventeen’s October issue and a $10,000 scholarship from Neutrogena®. McIntosh, who has been competing on ovals for more than 15 years, has her sights firmly set on climbing the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and competing in the Indianapolis 500.
“I have never raced at Milwaukee before but I am excited to be heading to another oval race,” said Ohio-born McIntosh, who now resides in St. Petersburg, Fla. “Indianapolis [Lucas Oil Raceway] definitely wasn’t the result we were looking for in finishing 11th, but I am continually improving as I learn the new race craft. Racing in conjunction with the IZOD IndyCar Series and the full Mazda Road to Indy ladder at The Milwaukee Mile is a great opportunity for drivers like myself to continue to interface with INDYCAR fans and I look forward to a positive, productive weekend.”
Fans can vote for McIntosh at www.Seventeen.com/PrettyAmazing.
In the National Class, 15-year-old Luca Forgeois of New York, N.Y., is enjoying a 25-point lead after a dominant victory in the “Night Before the 500” – his fourth win of the season. Forgeois once again will drive the #5 Café Noir entry for locally based Pabst Racing Services of Oconomowoc, Wis.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of competition in the series,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “We are approaching the midpoint of our season and I would be hard-pressed to pick our 2011 champion. The talent level is extremely high. So many of the drivers with us today are future champions at the higher levels without a doubt. On that note, I would like to congratulate a few of our alumni: Dan Wheldon, our 1999 Champion and Rookie of the Year and this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, and J.R. Hildebrand, our 2006 Champion, who finished second and showed all of us what we already knew that he is a class act on and off the race track.”
The USF2000 Series will take to the track for the first time on Thursday, June 16, for a test session from 10:15 am to 12:00 pm CT. Official practice will take place on Friday with a 30-minute session at 10:15 am. Following an additional practice session at 8:00 am on Saturday, qualifying will take place at 2:10 pm. Sunday’s race will take the green flag at 10:00 am.
Live timing and scoring as well as a dedicated live track audio feed can be found at www.USF2000.com.