ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Christian Brooks has made tremendous progress throughout his rookie Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship campaign with the Exclusive Autosport team.
Sunday in the USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires, Brooks led confidently throughout the 20-lap season finale to secure a hard-earned maiden victory.
Saturday’s winner, fellow rookie Kiko Porto, capped an excellent weekend by finishing second ahead of countryman and close friend Eduardo Barrichello, for whom a ninth podium finish of the season was enough to clinch second place in the championship.
Brooks, 20, got the ball rolling Saturday morning in qualifying by claiming his first Cooper Tires Pole Award. The lap of 1:11.9662, an average speed of 90.042 mph, eclipsed Alexandre Baron’s qualifying record set in 2018.
Brooks took full use of that hard-won advantage by leading the field into turn one at the start, with fellow front-row starter Porto in hot pursuit.
Barrichello made up one position to follow in third ahead of already-crowned champion Christian Rasmussen and Michael d’Orlando, who made a bold move from eighth on the grid.
Next up were Australian Cameron Shields and Reece Gold, who needed to finish ahead of Barrichello to keep alive his hopes of finishing second in the points table.
Aside from d’Orlando forging past Rasmussen for fourth place on lap two, the leading positions remained unchanged until the race was neutralized by the pace car after Shields ground to a halt – for the second time in as many days – after eight laps.
Brooks maintained his advantage at the restart, and even though Porto never gave him any respite, Brooks held on confidently to take a narrow victory.
Porto had to be content with second, although he also took home the Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award after posting a new USF2000 race lap record with a best of 1:12.2279, for an average speed of 89.716 mph.
Fourth place was taken by d’Orlando, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award as he remained narrowly ahead of Rasmussen. Englishman Matt Round-Garrido rounded out the top six for Pabst Racing.
Jack William Miller was involved in a close battle, just edging Prescott Campbell, a disappointed Gold, who slipped to ninth at the finish, and Wyatt Brichacek, who claimed his first top-10 finish of the season.
Brooks’ fine effort ensured the USF2000 PFC Award for the winning team owner, Michael Duncalfe.
Brooks also secured the season’s Hyperco Rookie of the Year honors, which will be acknowledged in an abbreviated awards ceremony to be held trackside at the Mahaffey Theater later Sunday evening.