Today was the first on-track activity at St. Petersburg for all of the series racing there this weekend: US F2000, Star Mazda, Indy Lights, IndyCar, and the SCCA World Challenge. I’ll talk about the World Challenge and other action later, but let me talk here about the US F2000 National Championship. You know that preview that I wrote yesterday? …yeah, chuck it out the window! The grid is ALL jumbled up, and that’s a great thing!
The US F2000 grid increased by in size by a driver this weekend as journeyman junior formula driver Tonis Kasemets returns to the track. Tonis has climbed as high as driving a couple of Firestone Indy Lights races and a Grand Am race in DP, but most of his experience is in SCCA formula cars, F2000 cars, and the now defunct Atlantics series. He would start the day slow, but end up qualifying in P4. The front row had better watch out! He has a history of running over drivers who are too early on the brakes. He joined the regular crew I discussed yesterday in my preview article, and wow what a day it was!
The first practice session had Belardi Auto Racing drivers Wayne Boyd and Cole Morgan posted P1 and P3 times with Juan Piedrahita of JDC MotorSports sandwiched in between them. By the second practice session, though, three different drivers would occupy the top of the time charts with Luke Ellery of JDC MotorSports in P1, Petri Suvanto of Cape Motorsports in P2, and Zach Veach of Andretti Autosport in P3.
The times would continue to drop throughout the day, though with the top time in FP1 being set by Boyd at a 1:14.677. By FP2, Ellery would take three tenths off that speed and set a 1:14.313. Qualifying runs would scrape off yet another three tenths and the pole position would be claimed by Andretti Autosports’ rookie Spencer Pigot when he circulated the St. Petersburg GP circuit in 1:13.955.
“Practice went pretty well, so we knew we had a good car. In qualifying, they kept telling me I was P3 and just one-tenth off. I was able to make an adjustment in the cockpit during the last lap and put in a really good time. I have to thank my guys for their help. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.” — Spencer Pigot, #8 Andretti Autosport
His pole was won by only the narrowest of margins as Juan Piedrahita who was only 0.002s slower with a 1:13.957! Close enough for you? How about if we go further and see that Petri Suvanto was only 0.006s behind Piedrahita! That’s right P1 through P3 were separated by only 0.009s!!! Are you kidding me? And it doesn’t stop there! Cole Morgan, who qualified in P11, was still within nearly eight-tenths of Spencer’s time with a 1:14.768. The only Championship class driver who didn’t qualify within 0.9s of the pole speed was Shannon McIntosh, who is still learning her way around the right turns. It will eventually come, but look for Shannon to really only show her strengths on the ovals this first season.
“We had a really good day. JDC MotorSports did a great job. The car was pretty much perfect. For the two practice sessions, we were right near the top. My teammate also did a good job. We made a little change for qualifying, went out there and I gave what I had. At the end, Spencer had a good lap. Tomorrow we will be looking to grab some points and maybe victory.” — Juan Piedrahita, #19 JDC MotorSports
The race should be outstandingly exciting! I’m fully expecting an all-out street brawl in St. Petersburg with eleven drivers all within a second of each other! Who’s going to win? Beats the heck out of me. Put those top eleven names into a hat and draw. Any one of them has pace to be on the podium! Race #1 is tomorrow at 1720 EDT. Be sure to follow the action on the US F2000 National Championship’s new Timing and Scoring page: http://usf2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx. Greatly improved for your viewing enjoyment!