Race #2 this past Sunday on the Streets of St. Petersburg was the fourth race of the 2011 Cooper Tires Presents the US F2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda season, and it saw its fourth race winner as Cape Motorsports’ driver, Petri Suvanto, would take the checkers after starting from pole and successfully defending his position as Andretti Autosport’s Spencer Pigot mounted a challenge during a restart. In addition for separate race winners, the season thus far has seen five separate drivers on the podium and nine different drivers finish in the top-five.
This parity amongst drivers and teams in the 2011 US F2000 National Championship is in stark contrast to last season which saw Andretti Autosport’s Sage Karam dominate the field. This season looks to be a real pitched battle, and it will be interesting to see how the current championship leaders, Andretti Autosport’s Spencer Pigot and Cape Motorsports’ Petri Suvanto, perform in the next two rounds on the schedule. The next races for the US F2000 National Championship are on the 5/8-mile oval at the former IRP, now Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, for the Night Before the 500 and at the historic Milwaukee Mile.
Its so exciting to see such strong competition in the Mazda Road to Indy program. The close racing provided by the US F2000 National Championship this year goes a long way toward teaching these young drivers the race craft and patience they’ll need as they move up the ladder toward the IZOD IndyCar Series, patience that if you saw the race on Sunday some of the IndyCar drivers could use! Ultimately what it means for us as fans is that American open-wheel racing will continue to strengthen and become the extremely competitive series and the most complete challenge to circuit racers in the world. If you’re headed to Indianapolis for the 500 Mile Race in May, don’t forget to head over to Lucas Oil Raceway and see US F2000 drivers and the Star Mazda drivers to battle on the 5/8-mile oval. I guarantee you that the racing action will be well worth your while.
If you missed the action at St. Petersburg via live timing and scoring, here’s the official race recap:
A large portion of the crowd stayed on after this afternoon’s IZOD IndyCar Series season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg to watch Petri Suvanto become the fourth different winner in as many rounds of the hotly contested Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda.
The highly rated 18-year-old from Nurmo, Finland, driving for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, took full advantage of the pole position he gained by virtue of posting the fastest race lap in yesterday’s race. He maintained the lead at the start, then held off closest rival Spencer Pigot after a mid-race full-course caution to score a fine victory on the unforgiving 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit.
Northern Ireland’s Wayne Boyd made an impressive jump at the start, vaulting from fourth on the grid to second in his #4 DHL/Belardi Auto Racing entry, but didn’t quite have the pace to fend off yesterday’s winner, Pigot, in the #8 Team MAZDSPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen.
Pigot, 17, from Windermere, Fla., stalked Boyd through the first half of the 21-lap race, then pounced on the inside under braking for Turn One on Lap 10 to move into second place.
Pigot challenged Suvanto for the lead at the restart following a full-course caution – caused by an incident between Tonis Kasemets and Shannon McIntosh – but the Finn just held his ground. Suvanto’s victory, hot on the heels of three podium finishes already this season, allowed him to grasp the championship lead by 106 points to 104 over Pigot.
Zach Veach, 16, from Stockdale, Ohio, finished a close fourth in the #7 Team Zakosi Backup/Andretti Autosport car, maintaining his third place in the championship with 88 points.
Frenchman Vincent Beltoise (#32 Pole Mecanique Ales en Cevennes/INSA de Lyon/Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Van Diemen) scored his best result of the season thus far, emerging narrowly ahead of Timmy Megenbier (#17 Sick Tea/Rahal Foods/Caputo/Wiscon Corp.), Matthew Di Leo (#33 Res Precast/Brian Stewart Racing) and JDC MotorSports duo Luke Ellery and Juan Piedrahita after a race-long battle for fifth.
For the second day running, Luca Forgeois won the National class aboard the #97 Stevenson Motorsports/Café Noir Van Diemen The 15-year-old from New York City, N.Y., now leads by 84 points to 73 over defending National champion Ardie Greenamyer from Louisville, Ky.
Contingency awards for the St. Petersburg pair of races include the Tilton Hard Charger Award for the driver who gains the most positions which went to Di Leo for Race One and Megenbier for Race Two. The PFC Award for the winning car owners was issued to Andretti Autosport and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, and Stevenson Motorsports in the National class. The Staubli Award, a random finisher award, was issued to McIntosh (Round One) and Greenamyer (Round Two).
Petri Suvanto, #3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing (Started 1st/Finished 1st): “Getting a win is all I could hope for and hopefully we can carry the momentum for the remainder of the season and try to stay on top in the hunt for the championship. This track is amazing and actually I am planning on maybe moving to St. Pete so this was like my home race especially since the team is based here. It is a special place for me obviously.”
Spencer Pigot, #8 Team MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport (Started 2nd/Finished 2nd): “Overall, we had a really good weekend in St. Petersburg. It was great to finally get to race here. Two more podiums and my first race win is great for myself and the team and gives us a lot of confidence going into the ovals and for the rest of the season. A big thanks to them.”
Wayne Boyd, #4 DHL/Belardi Auto Racing (Started 4th, Finished 3rd): “It was a really good race for us. It is only our second race meeting with Belardi Auto Racing with no testing and to get a podium is a really good result. We are gradually getting closer and closer to the front so watch out for us.”
Luca Forgeois, #97 Stevenson Motorsports Café Noir (Started 2nd/Finished 1st – National Class): “I definitely learned a lot. It was more about race strategy and pushing my competitors to make mistakes. Early on I thought I had a problem with the engine so I was scared that some bad things were going to happen, but I had no need to worry. My team assured me that everything was fine and I just kept pushing.”