ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Kyle Kirkwood led only one lap during Sunday’s incident-filled Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America powered by Mazda, but it was the only lap that mattered.
Kirkwood overtook Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl on the final restart to secure his fifth USF2000 win of the season and fourth in succession.
Potomac, Md., youngster Kaylen Frederick also found a way past Kohl on the final lap to ensure two-three finish for the Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Pabst team, after Kohl had run up front for 11 of the 12 laps.
The action began almost immediately after the start, when two cars tangled in turn one and then two more were eliminated in an incident before the braking area for turn five. That led to the first of three full-course cautions, but not before Kohl had jumped from third on the grid to the lead ahead of Pabst teammates Rasmus Lindh and Frederick.
A restart with three laps in the books was relatively clean, despite some intense wheel-to-wheel action in turn one. Kohl managed to cling onto his advantage over Lindh and Frederick, with Kirkwood lurking menacingly in fourth.
On lap five, Kirkwood moved up one position when he passed Frederick cleanly under braking for turn five. Soon afterward, the caution flags were waving again after another incident – this time in turn 12 – which required removal of the stricken cars of Darren Keane and Kyle Dupell.
The green flags flew again after a couple of laps behind the Mazda pace car, and once again the action at the front was intense. Kohl successfully fended off his pursuers to maintain the lead, while in his wake Frederick took full advantage of the draft to vault briefly from fourth to second.
It didn’t last for long, however, as minor contact between himself, Lindh and Kirkwood at turn three resulted in Kirkwood moving back to second, whereas Lindh found himself on the outside line at turn five and with nowhere to go but the escape road.
A major stack-up and some opportunist maneuvers saw yet another Pabst car – Calvin Ming, who had started a lowly 15th after problems in qualifying – suddenly emerge in fifth, only to be unfortunately harpooned in turn six by Kory Enders.
The latest carnage ensured yet another full-course caution, which left time for only a one-lap dash to the checkers. This time Kirkwood timed his restart to perfection, drafting past Kohl cleanly before turn one to assume the lead for the first time. He duly sped away to claim yet another race win after that.
Frederick also managed to find a way past the unfortunate Kohl, who had to be content with third. The pair of podium finishes provided some consolation for Augie Pabst, as his locally-based organization is now tied on points for the lead of the team championship.
Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., secured his best-ever result by finishing a strong fourth for DEForce Racing, just ahead of Japanese-born Brazilian Igor Fraga.
England’s Oscar DeLuzuriaga claimed his career-best finish of 12th for Newman Wachs Racing, also earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting a distant 26th.
Kirkwood’s win extends his championship lead to a commanding 94 points over Alex Baron.