At long last, the long, dark off-season is nearly over! This weekend, the Cooper Tires Presents the US F2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda joins the American LeMans Series Presented by Tequila Patrón at the historic Sebring International Raceway. The race at Sebring is the first of the seven-stop, nine-race USF2000 season. While the official entry list for the event is still forthcoming, we at least know who’s signed up with the series for the season. Here’s the official list of teams and drivers entered for the season so far.
|AcceleRace Motorsports||Ardie Greenamyer||28||CC|
|ArmsUp Motorsports||Trent Hindman||??||—|
|Andretti Autosport||Spencer Pigot||8||CC|
|Andretti Autosport||Zach Veach||7||CC|
|Belardi Auto Racing||Wayne Boyd||4||CC|
|Belardi Auto Racing||Cole Morgan||9||CC|
|Brian Stewart Racing||Matthew Di Leo||33||CC|
|Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing||Vincent Beltoise||32||CC|
|Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing||Shannon McIntosh||2||CC|
|Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing||Petri Suvanto||3||CC|
|Fuerza Chile Motorsports||TBA||??||—|
|JDC MotorSports||Luke Ellery||85||CC|
|JDC MotorSports||Juan Peidrahita||19||CC|
|Philip Creighton Motorsports||TBA||??||—|
|Pabst Racing Services||J.R. Smart||6||NC|
|Primus Racing||Nathan Morcom||??||—|
|Sick Tea Racing||Timmy Megenbier||17||CC|
|Stevenson Motorsports||Luca Forgeois||97||NC|
* CC = Championship Class, NC = National Glass
That’s 14 confirmed team/driver combinations and the potential for more later in the season. This is a big step up from last year’s grid size which struggled to break into double-digits. The field this year, as last year, will feature young drivers from all over the globe. Four continents and no less than seven countries will be represented on the grid! Of course, the favorites this weekend have to be the Andretti Autosport boys, Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot. Between them, they won every pole during the 2011 Winterfest, and won four of the five races.
“The Winterfest races were extremely helpful as far as preparation for the full USF2000 season. It really helped us shake off the cobwebs and gave us a head start. I hope to carry that momentum into the 2011 season. Hopefully all of the hard work and preparation will pay off at Sebring.” — Zach Veach, #7 Andretti Autosport
Although odds-makers may have Andretti Autosport as a clear early favorite, they’re by no means a lock for race wins. JDC MotorSports, Belardi Auto Racing, and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing all have strong drivers on their squads and good crews to back them up. Belardi Auto Racing, in particular, has two drivers that have won championships in F2000 and Formula Ford cars, Cole Morgan and Wayne Boyd, in addition to some excellent engineering talent. The team, known as Liberty Motorsports in 2010, had a solid season and found the podium twice and was in the top-five most other races. I think the team will be a regular on the US F2000 podium this year, and a potential winner at Sebring.
“Obviously our goals are to win right out of the box. I’ve got quite a bit of 2.0-liter experience, so that gives us a really good place to start. Belardi Auto Racing is a five-star organization, so I have all of the tools to perform at my best.” — Cole Morgan, #9 Belardi Auto Racing and National Guardsman.
JDC MotorSports is also showing up to the season opener loaded for bear. Luke Ellery found the podium at Road Atlanta in his USF2000 debut, and its only reasonable to expect him to continue being competitive, especially on a strong team like JDC MotorSports. Juan Piedrahita, who ran the majority of the 2010 Star Mazda Championship for Team Apex, steps back from the more powerful Star Mazda car to USF2000. While, Ellery is likely to be a contender, look for this season to be a year in which Piedrahita focuses on developing his racecraft.
The USF2000 races at Sebring isn’t going to be JDC MotorSports’ only concern this weekend. They will also be competing in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship in the L1 class with long time formula car racer and 2009 Star Mazda Championship Masters Class runner-up Gerry Kraut.
“I am really going to enjoy this series (Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship). Sebring is one of my favorite tracks- a historical gem that hasn’t been sanitized like the ‘country club’ tracks that have sprouted up all over the country. And, just as important, I am sticking with IMSA, a fine organization that feels like home to me.” — Gerry Kraut
It will be interesting to see how the newest member of the Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, USAC Midget racer Shannon McIntosh, transitions to open-wheel formula car racing. The driving dynamics are very different between an aero-sensitive formula car, and a front-engined USAC midget. I will be surprised to see her challenge for race wins right out of the gate, especially starting at the very challenging and bumpy circuit of Sebring International Raceway, but I think we will see steady growth throughout the season, and strong performances from her at the Night Before the 500 and Milwaukee.
FINALLY, there’s a whole lot of racing for us to talk about! All the silly season stuff has been entertaining to a point, but I’m ready for some racing! You can follow all the racing action from the USF2000 National championship this weekend via their live timing and scoring feed, http://www.usf2000timing.com/. Be sure to also follow the ALMSChicks on twitter for live updates from the track.