INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Indy Grand Prix wrapped up Friday with a pair of all-green Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship races.
Brazilian Eduardo Barrichello continued his excellent form from Thursday by winning again during the morning for Pabst Racing, while Floridian teenager Reece Gold earned his own breakthrough maiden victory Friday afternoon for Cape Motorsports.
Gold’s triumph came as the result of a heartbreaking late error by Jack William Miller, who slid off the road in turn one while holding a tenuous lead.
Miller had finished a fine second in the day’s opening race, chased by Christian Brooks, who also claimed his first podium finish. Brooks backed up that performance by finishing second in race three ahead of Brazilian Kiko Porto.
A busy morning for the USF2000 contenders began with an 8 a.m. qualifying session, and for the second day running it was Porto who set the pace, taking advantage of the cool, crisp conditions to circulate within a couple tenths of Braden Eves’ track record.
Porto thereby secured his second Cooper Tires Pole Award, edging fellow Brazilian and close friend Barrichello by just .0390 of a second.
Barrichello, however, turned the tables by gaining a better run away from the start and taking the lead at turn one. Miller also made a good early move, driving around the outside of Porto in turn seven to take over second place.
The unfortunate Porto found himself shuffled all the way back to sixth place by the end of the opening lap, behind points leader Christian Rasmussen, Brooks – who was up from sixth on the grid – and Gold.
Barrichello turned a string of rapid laps – including the fastest of the race which earned him the pole position for the final event of the triple-header weekend – to extend the gap to Miller to over 1.7 seconds by the halfway point of the 15-lap race.
The Brazilian then managed his pace perfectly, and even though Miller closed to within just over a half-second by the checkered flag, Barrichello’s second successive victory never looked in doubt.
“I’m really happy about this week, it was almost perfect – two wins out of three races and top-five in the third race,” said Barrichello. “The Pabst crew did an amazing job with the car, and thanks to my dad and Tony Kanaan for supporting me. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. We’re closer in the championship, but I’m here to win races, and if we keep doing that, we’ll keep getting closer.”
Brooks claimed his best result of the season thus far following a race-long scrap with Rasmussen, and later Porto, who repassed Gold on the fifth lap and moved up to fourth on lap 13 following a textbook pass on Rasmussen at turn 12.
Michael d’Orlando also found a way past Gold, his Cape Motorsports teammate, to snag sixth.
A little further down the order, Christian Bogle claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making his way from 20th on the grid to 15th.
The final race of the week saw Barrichello once again take off confidently into the lead. Behind, second-place starter Rasmussen was inadvertently hit from behind by d’Orlando, who had lined up directly behind him on row two.
As those two plummeted down the order, Barrichello led from Miller, with Gold slotting into third ahead of Brooks.
With two laps in the books, Miller gained the advantage of the draft to close right up onto Barrichello’s tail as they headed toward turn one.
Barrichello instinctively defended the inside line in the braking area, whereupon Miller executed arguably the overtake of the weekend as he drove all the way around the outside to claim the lead for the very first time.
A little later on the same lap, in turn seven, Gold also made a move on Barrichello, dropping him to third, just ahead of Brooks.
Miller drove superbly until the very last lap when, with Gold closing, the leader left his braking a fraction too late at turn one and slid straight on into the escape road.
Gold needed no second bidding, slipping through into the lead and then completing one final lap of the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit to secure an emotional victory.
“This is awesome. It feels so good to get the win after so many seconds and thirds! I was happy to make it through the first lap; this is the kind of track where you have to gain spots and get away from the mess, because with the draft, things happen,” said Gold. Thankfully, we got a great start and just focused forward. Halfway through the race, I didn’t think we could get there, but something happened mid-race and we started to reel Jack in.
“From there, I was able to take advantage of the chance to grab the lead. I’m really happy to finally get the win.”
Brooks capped his excellent weekend by inheriting second place, and although Miller crossed the finish line in third, he was relegated to fourth behind Porto by the stewards for an unsafe return to the race track in turn two following his excursion through the gravel trap.
Barrichello slipped back to a distant fifth at the conclusion, narrowly ahead of Cape Motorsports’ Josh Green, who posted a fine drive from 14th on the grid to earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Australian Cameron Shields capped his first race week with DEForce Racing by claiming seventh ahead of Miller’s teammate, Max Kaeser, who also enjoyed a strong week with a trio of top-10 finishes.