The Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship double-header on the Streets of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor saw major changes in the championship standings in both the Championship class and the National class. In one case, the lead was extended and the championship all but assured, and in the other the points battle got even tighter.
The Championship Class
The two championship contenders in the 2012 Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda each came away from the two events on the Streets of Baltimore with a win. Brabham, however, comes away with a much stronger position having finished P2 in the race he didn’t win (Race #1) as opposed to Spencer Pigot who crashed out of Race #2 on Lap 10 while he and Brabham attempted to lap slower traffic. Pigot’s DNF allowed Brabham to stretch his championship lead to a very comfortable 41-point margin with only the two races at the Virginia International Raceway left.
no images were found“I am just happy how everything turned out at the end of the weekend. It was disappointing yesterday to make a few mistakes so today I was just concentrating on not making any mistakes, keeping it clean, staying out in front and out of trouble. It worked out for me in the end and the track was really, really fun to drive on. Cape Motorsports gave us awesome cars throughout the entire weekend which made it easy on us as drivers. I really was quick and I have to thank the team for that. I have to thank the city of Baltimore for a great event and USF2000, Cooper Tires and Mazda for doing all the work they do.” — Matthew Brabham, #83 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Spencer Pigot has certainly shown himself to be a top talent in his second year in USF2000. Although it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to wrest the championship away from Matthew Brabham this year, I don’t doubt at all that Team Pelfrey will be looking to move him up to their Star Mazda program in 2013. Matthew Brabham, with the champion’s scholarship in hand, shouldn’t have any troubles moving up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. It will be fun to watch the two do battle once again next year in Star Mazda.
The National Class
So far this year, the National Class battle has been between ZSports Midwest with Team E Racing’s R. C. Enerson and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Henrik Furuseth. Furuseth’s twin victories at the Road America triple-header allowed him to gain ground on Enerson, but lurking in the wings was the FE veteran, Mark Eaton. Mark won the opening round in Sebring, but lost ground after DNFs at both St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio. Solid performances at Road America allowed him to stay in contact with the two championship leaders, and a great showing on the Streets of Baltimore has put him right back into contention.
Race #1 was set by points after qualifying had been abandoned due to track conditions, which placed the NAT contenders well back in the grid. Enerson started in 17th, Furuseth started in 19th, and Eaton was back in 21st after suffering a one-spot penalty for missing the checkered flag during the second practice session. All three would charge ahead of their starting positions with Furuseth giving an absolute clinic on overtaking on the bumpy and narrow circuit finishing P8 overall and taking the NAT class victory.
no images were found“My race was awesome. I had a great start going into the first corner and passed six or seven cars. I was able to pull away quite early. It was quite difficult with the safety car laps but I was able stay ahead the whole race. The car was just amazing. I have to thank Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing for that. They did an amazing job throughout the weekend and also the whole season in setting up the car.” — Henrik Furuseth, #32 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Race #2 was a completely different beast! As in the Championship battle, the National class cars also suffered from contact and driver errors. Henrik Furuseth tagged the wall exiting T4, thus ruining his chance at being competitive and defending his race win from the previous day. R. C. Enerson was taken out on the first lap of the race, removing him from contention as well. Mark Eaton’s years of experience behind the wheel of his FE racer led him to be far more patient than his younger competitors and allowed him to avoid all the mayhem. Eaton took full advantage of the opportunity to make ground in the championship taking not only the NAT class win, but finishing P7 overall, the highest finish for any NAT class car so far this season.
no images were found“We started on the outside this time thankfully because the inside was definitely not the place to be yesterday. I made a good start and just kept digging. Finally, and I don’t know if Henrik [Furuseth] had contact with the wall, but I just kept reeling him in. I saw him tag the wall in Turn Four and his car wasn’t any good after that. I was able to get ahead of him and pull out a lead and that was pretty much it. The race was over with a caution on the front straight.” — Mark Eaton, #92 Robinson Motor Sports
We spoke with Mark earlier in the week as part of our Inside the Helmet series, and he spoke frequently of the need to be patient and aware of the much tighter confines of a street circuit. Looks like experience paid major dividends for the 2008 SCCA FE National Champion.
After the two races in Baltimore, the three contenders are separated by only 10 points. Enerson still leads with 168 points, with Furuseth at 161 points. With his win in Race #2 and the other two’s poor results after contact, Eaton finds himself right back in the mix with 158 points. While the Championship Class may be all but wrapped up for Matthew Brabham, the National Class battle at VIR later this month will be very interesting to watch! Remember you can sign in to live timing & scoring, join a live chat with fellow fans and USF2000 officials, and listen to live audio from each of the final two races at http://usf2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx.