Shields Is Up To The Oval Task

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Cameron Shields won Friday's USF2000 event at Lucas Oil Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Cameron Shields won Friday's USF2000 event at Lucas Oil Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)

CLERMONT, Ind. – Australian drivers have a long history of success in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, and Cameron Shields added to that legacy with a beautifully judged drive to victory in Friday’s Cooper Tires Freedom 75.

Shields, who hails from Toowoomba, Queensland, the same hometown as defending Indianapolis 500 champion Will Power, started second, took the lead by holding on around the outside at the start and proceeded to lead throughout the 75-lap race around the 0.686-mile oval.

Polesitter Colin Kaminsky couldn’t keep pace with Shields but was edging away from an intense battle for third between Mexico’s Manuel Cabrera and Frenchman Alex Baron until the pair hauled up behind some lapped traffic shortly after the halfway mark.

On Lap 43, Baron made a move to the inside of Cabrera at the entrance to turn one. Unfortunately, Cabrera found himself pinched in between Baron and, on the outside, the lapped Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 of Brazil’s Bruna Tomaselli, who herself was embroiled in a tense battle with the Jay Howard Driver Development pair of Christian Bogle, from Covington, La., and Englishman Matt Round-Garrido, plus Venezuelan Anthony Famularo.

In a flash, Cabrera’s car started to spin, taking both himself and Tomaselli into the wall to trigger the first of two full-course cautions.

A second interruption came just 10 laps after the restart, on lap 61, when Jack William Miller spun and crashed out of seventh place between Turns Three and Four.

Each time, Shields was picture-perfect out front. The 18-year-old rookie held off the advances of Kaminsky, who instead came under increasing pressure from a charging Baron, who had started fifth. Baron finally made his move for second place into turn one with just four laps remaining.

“That was absolutely incredible, I just can’t believe it,” Shields said. “I’ve worked so hard to get here, and even to finish the year I have to work really hard to make that happen. It was a really, really tough race – my mental state changed quite a lot. I had such a big lead and, all of the sudden, the yellow comes out and everything changed. There was a bit of panic but I recouped and did a good job to keep the guys behind me. I really have to thank the team; they gave me a perfect car to do it and taught me well how to drive an oval. My driving style is very smooth and sometimes on the road courses, I’m not aggressive enough so right now, this couldn’t suit me any better. I’m so happy to do this with fellow Aussies here, especially the Australian Consul-General, it was so special to have them here to witness this win.”

Fourteen-year-old Jak Crawford drove another impressive race to claim fourth ahead of championship leader Braden Eves.