ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Christian Rasmussen began the new Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season in perfect style Friday by dominating Frudat’s USF2000 Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders.
A race winner three times during his rookie campaign in 2019, the recently turned 20-year-old from Copenhagen, Denmark, more than lived up to his preseason expectations by taking a clean sweep of 65 points for the Jay Howard Driver Development team.
The Cape Motorsports pair of Josh Green and long-time friend Michael d’Orlando claimed a runner-up placing apiece. Top rookie Green followed up his second-place result in the opening race by taking third in race two, while second-generation Brazilian racer Eduardo Barrichello rounded out the podium in the opening race for locally based Pabst Racing.
Rasmussen began his perfect day by blitzing the field and claiming the Cooper Tires Pole Award by more than a full second in this morning’s lone qualifying session, held in wet but drying conditions. He followed up by making not the hint of an error during a scrappy opening 12-lap race which was interrupted by no fewer than three full-course cautions.
The drama began on the opening lap when second-year USF2000 drivers Reece Gold and Nolan Siegel came together in turn seven while running comfortably inside the top 10.
Rasmussen nailed his restart to perfection, while behind him Green forged past Californian Christian Brooks for second. But at the completion of just one more lap, Canadian rookie Nico Christodoulou embedded his DEForce Tatuus USF-17 into the gravel trap at turn 14 to neutralize the field one more time.
Green kept the pressure on Rasmussen when the race resumed again with six laps in the books, although what appeared to be brewing into an exciting contest once again was brought to an early conclusion when Jack William Miller found the gravel trap at turn seven.
Rasmussen therefore took the checkered flag under caution, followed by Green and locally based Pabst Racing teammates Eduardo Barrichello and Matt Round-Garrido, who had exchanged places a couple of times during the course of the race.
d’Orlando finished fifth ahead of Christian Bogle, who moved up well from his 14th starting position.
Race Two also ended under caution when Canadian rookie Josh Pierson encountered a problem in turn one. That didn’t detract from another fine effort by Rasmussen, who once again started from the pole position by virtue of posting the fastest lap in the earlier race.
One slight slip from Rasmussen enabled Green to lead one lap in the early stages, but he quickly reasserted himself and extended his margin to more than seven seconds prior to the late caution.
Green, d’Orlando, Barrichello and Round-Garrido enjoyed an entertaining scrap for the minor placings before splitting themselves into a pair of intra-team battles. Green held second place for most of the way until d’Orlando grasped the position moments before the caution flags waved with two laps remaining. Behind, Round-Garrido narrowly held off Barrichello for fourth.
“That was amazing. The emotions are running so high right now, because there’s so much at stake this season,” said Rasmussen. “I worked so hard during the off-season and through this entire break, so I’m just glad we were able to capitalize on that. The team has done a great job all weekend to keep improving the car and I got the best out of it today, so I’m very happy. I made one mistake that allowed Josh to get close and challenge me in the second race, but I was back up there right away. This is a great way to start the championship.”