HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Rookies Kyle Kirkwood and Rasmus Lindh laid down a marker over the past two days by posting the fastest times among 23 drivers from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda who took advantage of the annual Spring Training test on the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.
A strong field of rookies and series veterans proved to be very closely matched. Kirkwood, 19, from Jupiter, Fla., driving for Cape Motorsports, set the fastest time of 1:23.7723, an average speed of 94.972 mph, to edge Swedish rookie Lindh’s best for Pabst Racing at 1:23.9236. Both times were set on Saturday in marginally cooler conditions.
Kirkwood, who won last year’s U.S. Formula 4 championship with Cape Motorsports, only concluded his deal to remain with the Florida-based team – which has won each of the last seven USF2000 championships – within the past two weeks, yet was immediately up to speed as he posted the fastest time in three of the six one-hour sessions. Kirkwood’s best time was set in the final session on Saturday, although he cemented his intentions again today with a best time of 1:23.8843 this morning.
Fellow rookie Lindh, 16, from Gothenburg, Sweden, who will be undertaking his very first season of car racing, proved to be a fast learner. He set his fastest time in the very first session, clearly drawing from the experience of Pabst Racing teammates and series veterans Kaylen Frederick, Lucas Kohl and Calvin Ming.
Frederick, 15, from Potomac, Md., who finished fourth in the championship as a rookie in 2017, sprung to prominence in the final session this afternoon when everyone was running on fresh Cooper tires. His time of 1:24.101 was fractionally slower than his best on Saturday, but it was enough to top the charts by a relatively large margin of 0.2950 over teammates Lindh and Kohl, from Brazil.
Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Warwick, N.Y., rounded out the top five overall ahead of Ming, from Guyana, South America; rookie Kyle Dupell (Team Pelfrey), from Portland, Ore.; Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing), from Mexico City, Mexico; Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), from Boca Raton, Fla.; and Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey), from Cape Town, South Africa.
The 14-race season and quest to win a $325,000 Mazda Scholarship and ensure graduation onto the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2019 will commence in just over 10 days’ time when the teams and drivers reconvene on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products on March 9-11 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I’m ecstatic. It’s great to do so well this weekend, especially against a team like Pabst who have an awesome track record and four drivers to compare data. I drove the car here last year so that’s not new. People have asked me if there’s a lot of pressure on me, driving for the team that has won seven championships in a row, but I think it’s just the opposite: it gives me complete confidence in the team. I know (2017 USF2000 champion) Oliver Askew as a driver really well, and we’re pretty similar drivers so if everything is the same as last year, I think I can match what Oliver has done – especially given everything they learned last year with the USF-17. We have a little bit of a disadvantage because we’re a one-car team but I’ve already built a relationship with Nicholas and Dominic Cape, the mechanics and the engineers, so actually I think we’re ahead of the game. The team is on a roll, so we’ll just try to keep that going.”
Rasmus Lindh (#23 Chicago Pneumatic-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “The car feels very good. We’ve been quickest in two sessions and have improved through the weekend. We’ve tested a few times in the car, my first times in a race car. It takes some getting used to, going from a kart to a car. The brakes require much more pressure than a kart and you have to hold that pressure, so that’s new for me. I am used to moving my body in the kart to help the chassis, and I can’t move my body at all in the USF-17. And I’m learning what the car’s limits are, as well as the limits of the tires. It’s been great working with the Pabst team – all four of us have very similar times, so we can compare data and get the best for all of us.”
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com and at RoadToIndy.Info.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.