McElrea Wins, Steals USF2000 Championship Lead

Hunter McElrea raced to his second-straight USF2000 triumph Sunday at Portland Int'l Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Hunter McElrea raced to his second-straight USF2000 triumph Sunday at Portland Int'l Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Hunter McElrea and Pabst Racing enjoyed a stellar weekend at Portland Int’l Raceway by sweeping both 25-lap races during the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products.

The California-born, Australian-raised New Zealander’s third win in a row vaulted him from a nine-point deficit to a six-point advantage over Braden Eves in the battle for this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

Also at stake is a scholarship valued at over $300,000 to move up one step on the Road to Indy to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2020.

Eves minimized the damage for Cape Motorsports Sunday by once again finishing second to McElrea, while Zach Holden completed the podium for Legacy Autosport.

Sunday’s race saw McElrea make full use of his fourth straight pole position by moving immediately into the lead. Impressively, all 18 cars made it through the tight Festival Curves complex of corners relatively cleanly, although a minor brush between Eves and Christian Rasmussen, who had qualified third for Jay Howard Driver Development, unfortunately resulted in a flat tire for the Danish challenger. Rasmussen rejoined after a pit stop to change the damaged wheel and proceeded to turn the fastest laps of the race but could manage no better than an unrepresentative 17th at the finish.

Eves had no answer to McElrea’s pace, and indeed had his work cut out to fend off a late charge from Holden, who had fought his way past Colin Kaminsky on the fourth lap and then chased for all he was worth for the remainder of the race.

“This was an amazing weekend. To have a weekend like this – quick in all of the sessions, two poles and two wins – is so hard to come by. And to have a race like that, it’s the best case scenario,” said McElrea. “I’m so happy with where we are now to have the points lead. The competition, the teams and the drivers, are so talented. To have the lead going into the final round doesn’t change anything: I’m going into Laguna Seca with the same mindset I’ve had all along, especially since Mid-Ohio. I’ll focus on my own thing and hopefully the rest keeps taking care of itself. But the Pabst team gave me such a great car this weekend, and I owe them so much.”

Darren Keane and Jak Crawford completed the top six for Cape Motorsports, which, for the first time since early in the 2014 season, has now endured a streak of five races without a victory.