INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Second-generation racer Eduardo Barrichello scored his maiden Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship victory Thursday afternoon for Pabst Racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
In front of father, 11-time Formula One winner Rubens Barrichello, the 18-year-old Barrichello worked his way methodically from fourth at the completion of the opening lap to secure top honors in the first of three races that will comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Indy Grand Prix this weekend.
One day after celebrating his 16th birthday, Reece Gold moved up to second in the points table following his fifth podium finish in a row for Cape Motorsports, while pole-winning Brazilian Kiko Porto had to settle for third for DEForce Racing.
After dominating the first six races of the season for the Jay Howard Driver Development team, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen qualified fifth and could manage no better than sixth at the finish after being shuffled all the way down to 13th place on the opening lap.
The morning practice session was a sign of things to come as no fewer than 17 drivers were blanketed by less than one second. It was Porto who led the way, and the former F4 race winner continued his good work in qualifying to claim his first Cooper Tires Pole Award by less than a tenth of a second from Gold.
Barrichello lined up third but was quickly ousted by Jack William Miller, who continued his strong form for the Miller Vinatieri Motorsports team by leaping from fourth on the grid to second on the opening lap.
Porto took full advantage of his pole position – and the in-fighting behind him – to open up what seemed to be a commanding lead in the early stages of the 15-lap race. After the unfortunate Miller slipped back into the pack and then retired to the pits with a broken rear wing mount, Gold soon began to whittle away at a deficit that had reached as high as 2.6 seconds.
By lap 11, not only were the two leaders back together again, but Barrichello had joined in the fight, with top rookie Josh Green also moving into contention to set the stage for a thrilling final few laps.
Next time around, after the three leaders approached the braking area for turn one running side-by-side, it was Gold who briefly snatched the advantage, only to run wide on the exit and to third place behind Porto and Barrichello.
Porto tried to defend the lead, but to no avail. On lap 14, Porto again clung to the inside line at turn one, only for Barrichello to perform a classic over-under maneuver, turning in late from wide on the outside line and making a much faster exit to sweep ahead before turn two. Gold also took advantage of Porto’s loss of momentum to snatch second.
From there, Barrichello concentrated on hitting his marks to claim his first series victory.
“I will never forget this race. I’ve been waiting so long and I’ve been working so hard, both me and my dad,” Barrichello said. “This is the first time he has been here; I haven’t seen him in three months and he surprised me a week ago. I’m so fortunate, to get this win – I want to thank my dad for believing in me and dedicate this to my mom.
“We struggled a little bit in the first practice, and I had good pace in qualifying so I knew I would have to drive hard to get to the leaders. I had to think ahead and make an aggressive move, but it worked out. But it was hard, battling with my best friend (Kiko Porto), but I’m happy to see him get his first podium.”
Gold finished just .2834 of a second behind in second place, with Porto and Green also in close attendance at the checkered flag.
Nolan Siegel took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 10th on the grid to fifth, just ahead of Jay Howard Driver Development teammate Rasmussen, with Englishman Matt Round-Garrido taking seventh.