Earlier today, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda announced its 2013 race schedule. There are some significant changes from the 2012 schedule, but in all, I think they’re good ones. The series competes along side the other series within the Mazda Road to Indy program and the IZOD IndyCar Series more frequently, and there’s less of a gap between races during the summer. Last year, there were no races in June or July, meaning that teams and drivers had to wait two and a half months after the Night Before the 500 before they could hit the track and serve their sponsors again.
no images were foundVenues that are returning from 2012 include the season opening races at Sebring International Raceway during the 12 Hours of Sebring race weekend, St. Petersburg with INDYCAR, the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with INDYCAR. Unfortunately, the American Le Mans Series will not be returning to Mid-Ohio, but the Firestone Indy Lights series is, so count that as a net positive for the USF2000 teams and drivers.
Going away next year are Road America, Baltimore, and Virginia International Raceway. Both Road America and the Virginia International Raceway events were in conjunction with ALMS, and given the direction that series is taking in 2014, spending time with the series in 2013 makes less sense for the open-wheel development series than it did in previous seasons. Seeing USF2000 leave Baltimore is unfortunate given it was one of the few places where all four of INDYCAR’s open-wheel series all competed at the same venue on the same weekend. Given how harsh the rough street circuit is on equipment, however, it makes sense to abandon the venue for next year. If it were the only street race on the schedule, that would be one thing, but there are plenty of opportunities on the schedule for the young drivers in USF2000 to learn street racing without having the parts-eating circuit around the Inner Harbor.
New venues for 2013 include the legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the Streets of Toronto, and Reliant Park in Houston. At Laguna Seca, the USF2000 drivers join the Star Mazda series at Mazda’s own circuit. This only makes sense since Mazda powers the USF2000 cars, and in my opinion, this is a venue that has been too long missing from the USF2000 schedule. The two new street courses, Toronto and Houston, put the teams and drivers back in front of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights teams. This is a good thing, and it’s good to see USF2000 venture into Canada for the first time. Drivers like Matthew Di Leo, who calls Ontario home, have to be pleased about the opportunity to compete in front of their fellow Canadians for the first time.
With the growth the USF2000 Series has seen this past season, and the strong turnout for the Chris Griffis Mazda Road to Indy Open Test, 2013 should prove to be another strong season. I’m looking forward to the Winter Series in February which, in my opinion, is the real beginning of the open-wheel season!
Official USF2000 Press Release
USF2000 Unveils 2013 Schedule
New Additions Include Races in California, Texas and Canada
PALMETTO, Fla. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda today announced its 2013 schedule which will see the series expand its reach across the United States and into Canada. Seven premier circuits will host a minimum of 14 rounds of competition, providing up-and-coming drivers with experience on a blend of three permanent road courses, three temporary street circuits and one oval event.
“I am extremely pleased with our schedule for next year,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “We are expanding into three new and key markets in California, Texas and Canada, returning to circuits that have provided great racing and training for our competitors and increasing our number of events with the IZOD IndyCar Series to five. These high-profile races will allow us to showcase our rising stars and, coupled with our pre-season Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship and testing schedule, will provide our drivers with more track time than ever before.
“Add in the Mazda Road to Indy Summit off-track educational program and I couldn’t be more delighted about what we have to offer as a series. We enjoyed average car fields of just under 30 cars per race in 2012 and next year is looking just as promising. I have to thank INDYCAR, Mazda and Cooper Tires and all of our terrific partners for their efforts in supporting our series and helping the Mazda Road to Indy grow and be the place for career-minded racers.”
The USF2000 2013 season will open in Florida. The first two rounds of competition will be held at Sebring International Raceway in support of the American Le Mans Series and the 61st running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 14/15. The series will head to the streets of St. Petersburg the following weekend on March 23/24 for a double-header in support of the opening race of the IZOD IndyCar Series calendar.
The lone oval event will be the traditional “Night Before the 500” on May 25 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind. The race will be preceded by a Mazda Road to Indy Oval Clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 9 and a test day at Lucas Oil Raceway on May 10.
The series will make its debut in Canada on July 13/14 with a pair of races in support of INDYCAR during the popular downtown Toronto street circuit event. USF2000 will again pair with INDYCAR on August 3/4 for a triple-header round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
In September, the series will make its first appearance in support of GRAND-AM with a doubleheader – and potentially a tripleheader – weekend of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
USF2000 will again move into new territory at Houston, Texas, for its season finale on October 5/6 at the Reliant Park street circuit with a pair of races in support of INDYCAR.
“The growth in the Cooper Tires USF2000 championship has been fantastic,” said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports. “In just two years, the series has become the ideal bridge between Skip Barber and Star Mazda as an integral part of the Mazda Road to Indy. I can’t say enough about the Andersen Promotions teams on both a professional and personal level. Thanks to their efforts we have the potential to see 30-car fields in 2013 which is simply amazing. The feedback from the teams about the power, reliability and durability of our Mazda MZR engine is a great point for us. Having them come to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time is obviously very special to everyone at Mazda.”
In addition to more racing action in 2013, the Mazda Road to Indy Summit program will continue to provide valuable off-track training. The first round of activities will take place during the St. Petersburg race weekend. This year’s curriculum included a presentation on what team owners look for in a driver, formal media training, a social media and marketing class and Mazda’s Business of Motorsports seminar.
The Summit will move to Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May. Activities this year included a team owner meet-and-greet, shop tour, spotter seminar and fitness and wellness class in addition to pace laps around the track with IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and participation in an autograph session on Community Day. The winner of the “Night Before the 500” will have the opportunity to pace the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race and be introduced before the start of the Indianapolis 500.
The series also provides its own classroom training for drivers on a variety of subjects including competing on street circuits and in large fields, and offers support via two driver coaches.
USF2000 will enter its fourth season of sanction by INDYCAR in 2013. Past champions include Sage Karam (2010), Petri Suvanto (2011) and Matthew Brabham (2012). Over $520,000 in prize money and awards is on offer. The 2013 champion will receive a scholarship package to advance to Star Mazda competition – the next rung on the ladder system – in 2014. The series’ National Class winner will receive a scholarship package to advance to the Championship Class the following year. In addition, the series is part of the prestigious MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development ladder which assists young drivers advancing from the Skip Barber Racing School – the official racing school of the IZOD IndyCar Series – to USF2000.
2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Schedule
March 14/15 Races 1/2* Sebring International Raceway Road Course With ALMS
March 23/24 Races 3/4 Streets of St. Petersburg Street Circuit With INDYCAR
May 25 Race 5 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval With USAC
July 13/14 Races 6/7 Streets of Toronto Street Circuit With INDYCAR
August 3/4 Races 8/9/10 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Road Course With INDYCAR
September 6/7 Races 11/12* Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Road Course With GRAND-AM
October 5/6 Races 13/14 Reliant Park Houston Street Circuit With INDYCAR
*potentially a three-race event
Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship (Six-Race Mini-Series)
February 5/6 Sebring International Raceway
February 9/10 Palm Beach International Raceway
Series Open Tests/Oval Clinic:
May 6/7 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
May 9 Oval Clinic – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 10 Lucas Oil Raceway