USF2000 Driver Blog – Portante at the Night Before the 500

The break between St. Pete and the next race at Lucas Oil Raceway has felt like an eternity. However, Lucas Oil was very much worth the wait. I mean we are racing the Night Before the 500! The whole Belardi team looked strong in the official test that took place a couple weeks ago, and we were all looking for a strong result. I was especially excited as our pace was very strong, and I was looking forward to turning my season around and gaining some momentum.

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Before no time, we were all lined up in the pits for Qualifying. It would still be a long time to the race, but already the stands were starting to fill up. This was even more impressive because of the big threat of impending rain. But the rain held off, and qualifying went smooth. My engineer Joe had given me a great car for qualifying, I was a bit tentative because of a moment on the warm up lap, but I was still able to set provisional pole and a provisional lap record. By the end of qualifying I had fallen back to P4 but it was still a great result and a great team result as well, with Danilo and Daniel Making the top 10.

Happily, the rain held off and in no time we had been gridded on the front stretch. We all got out of our cars and got ready for introductions. It was a pretty awesome experience; we were called on stage one at time, walked on stage in front of the crowd. Although, Brandon Newey had everyone covered here, I pretty sure he had his own fan club! We soon were all back in the cars, and behind the beautiful Mazda 6 pace car. I had a good start and was immediately in P2.

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I fell back to P3 on lap 2 but stayed close for the first half of the race when I finally made my move. It was now time to start tracking down the leader, our car was still strong and I could see I was getting closer and closer to Neil (Alberico) every lap. we both began maneuvering through traffic, but during the course of passing lap traffic, P3 had begun to close ground! Soon enough, all three of us were close, and after some unfortunate timing with a lap car I fell to P3. I would finish the race in the same spot. It was bitter-sweet.

It was fantastic to score my first USF2000 podium, but also slightly annoying to have been so close to a win (I imagine Carlos Munoz felt similarly after the 500!). Either way it was still fantastic to stand on the podium! I’m hoping this will start some momentum for us, as we go to the Streets of Toronto in a little of a month. And can’t thank everyone who has gotten me here, Belardi had a great car under me and all the people helping me this year, MAZDASPEED, Intercity Lines, California Scents, Beurre & Sel, B&R, and Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza. On to the next one!


Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank Peter for his thoughts on what was one of the best USF2000 National Championship races I’ve seen on any oval. Check back here at after every USF2000 race for more driver blogs from Mr. Porante or his Belardi Auto Racing teammates. You can follow Peter Porante on Twitter at @portante24, and Belardi Auto Racing at @BelardiRacing. Be sure to like Belardi Auto Racing’s page on FaceBook at

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