Kyle Kirkwood, 19, from Jupiter, Fla., has taken this year’s USF2000 championship by storm, winning seven of the nine races for Cape Motorsports – including the last six in succession – to open up an astonishing 131-point advantage with just five races remaining. Kirkwood requires only a relatively modest 34-point haul from this weekend’s trio of 30-minute races, comprising the Cooper Tires USF2000 Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Powered by Mazda, to secure a $325,000 Mazda Scholarship which will ensure graduation onto the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, Pro Mazda, in 2019.
If Kirkwood is able to accomplish his goal, he will be following directly in the footsteps of childhood friend (and karting rival) Oliver Askew, who won the title in 2017.
While Kirkwood’s domination has been complete, the battles in his wake have been intense. An impressive tally of nine other drivers have so far finished on the podium, while no fewer than 15 – representing nine different teams – have a top-five finish to their credit. And in the coveted Team Championship, Cape Motorsports currently holds only a four-point edge over Pabst Racing, which will field a quartet of potent Tatuus-Mazda USF-17s for Kaylen Frederick, Rasmus Lindh, Lucas Kohl and Calvin Ming.
Frederick, 16, from Potomac, Md., has finished on the podium in four of the last five races – and claimed his first pole position in Toronto. He also made a handful of podium appearances during his rookie campaign in 2017, so a first victory is long overdue. Kohl, from Santa Cruz do Sol, Brazil, and Ming, from Georgetown, Guyana, also are still seeking that elusive maiden win, as is 17-year-old Swedish rookie Lindh, who has picked up two poles and two fastest race laps from the four most recent races.
Igor Fraga also has been knocking on the door to Victory Lane for Exclusive Autosport. The Japanese-born Brazilian came close in Toronto, where he overtook Kirkwood boldly for the lead and held on for several laps before eventually succumbing to a spectacular maneuver by the champion-elect.
The long list of other potential challengers includes Dakota Dickerson (ArmsUp Motorsports), from San Diego, who earned his first pole and finished third in Toronto – and recently took the lead in this year’s U.S. F4 Championship following his first win at Mid-Ohio; Ireland’s Keith Donegan (BN Racing), who finished third at Road America; 2017 South African F1600 champion Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey), who outlasted a sequence of misfortune to finish fifth in Toronto; plus youngsters Michael d’Orlando (Team BENIK), from Hartsdale, N.Y., who impressed during last week’s test to build upon his first top-six finish recently at Road America ,and Jacob Abel, from Louisville, Ky., who similarly tested well for his family’s Abel Motorsports team.
This weekend will see debuts for former British Formula Ford Festival winner James Raven (DEForce Racing) and 15-year-old Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Exclusive Autosport), from Guilderland, N.Y., who has impressed this year in the F1600 Championship Series.
A busy week for the USF2000 contingent will begin with a trio of 40-minute test sessions on Thursday, July 26, followed on Friday by a 25-minute practice at 8:45 a.m., 20 minutes of qualifying at 12:45 p.m. and then the first of three races later in the afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s action will comprise another 20 minutes of qualifying at 8:45 a.m. to set the grid for Race Two at 12:35 p.m. Each driver’s fastest lap from Race Two will be used to determine the starting order for the third and final race of the weekend, which will start at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday, July 29. All times are EDT.