Brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape have made the Tampa/St. Petersburg area in Florida their home since the family moved to the U.S. from England in the early 1980s. They have made USF2000 their personal playground, too, having won no fewer than seven consecutive championships dating back to 2011.
Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., intends to extend that streak in 2018 as he remains with the Capes while stepping up to USF2000 after dominating the 2017 Formula 4 United States Championship powered by Honda.
“I have never raced on a street course, so this is going to be a first,” said Kirkwood, 19, who hit the ground running when he topped the time sheets during the Spring Training test two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I was fast at the Homestead test but that all goes out the window on a street course. But I have a lot of confidence in the team – they had a great car here last year and I believe them when they tell me that it will be even faster this year. I’m especially looking forward to it because it’s really my hometown race, since I live only a couple of hours away.”
Two other F4 champions will join Kirkwood on the 24-car grid. Highly touted Englishman Jamie Caroline, who won 10 times last year for the Carlin team on his way to the British F4 Championship title, beating the previous record of eight wins by current Formula 2 and McLaren F1 test driver Lando Norris, has completed a deal to join BN Racing alongside Arkansas rookie (and former US F4 racer) Russell McDonough IV. In addition, NACAM F4 Champion Calvin Ming will remain with Pabst Racing for his second season of USF2000 after taking four podium finishes and finishing fifth in the 2017 title-chase.
Pabst Racing, which secured its first Team Championship in 2017, also will field cars for 16-year-old Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., who impressed last year by finishing fourth in the championship, including a pair of top-five results in St. Petersburg, returning Brazilian Lucas Kohl and Swedish karting standout Rasmus Lindh, 16, who posted the second-fastest time at Spring Training.
“I’m really looking forward to St. Pete – it will be my first time on a street circuit,” said Lindh. “I have been preparing myself a lot, because there’s not much time before qualifying. I spent some time in traffic at the Homestead test and was able to pass some guys, so hopefully it will go well. I have never been to St. Pete so I’m looking forward to going in early to see a little bit of the city before the weekend – and to see my first IndyCar race.”
DEForce Racing, run by former IndyCar driver David Martinez, also will field a strong four-car team for returning drivers Kory Enders, from Warwick, N.Y., and Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., plus rookies Jose Sierra, from Mexico City, Mexico, and former F1600 Championship Series race winner Zach Holden, from Greenfield, Ind.
Three other teams have strength in numbers with three-car lineups. Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport, which burst onto the scene in 2017 by guiding veteran Parker Thompson to third place in the championship, will run Formula Panam Champion Manuel Cabrera, from Mexico City, Brazilian Formula 3 graduate Igor Fraga and veteran Canadian Jayson Clunie.
Newman Wachs Racing has enlisted Darren Keane, from Parkland, Fla., F1600 Championship Series race winner David Osborne, from Cincinnati, Ohio and England’s Oscar DeLuzuriaga, while Team Pelfrey will run South African Formula Ford Champion Julian Van der Watt, karting standout Kyle Dupell, from Portland, Ore., and Brazil’s Bruna Tomaselli, who made good progress during her maiden season in 2017.
Florida-based Team Benik has another strong lineup with karting stars Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., and Sabre Cook, from Grand Junction, Colo. The stellar field will be rounded out by entries from SOL.O Racing for 15-year-old Colombian F4 grad Mathias Soler-Obel and ArmsUp Motorsports, which expects to field at least one Tatuus USF-17 for Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout winner Keith Donegan, from Dublin, Ireland, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Oliver Askew by adding the USF2000 title as a rookie.
“I know it will be tough to win the championship in my first year racing over here but I’ve a great team around me and a lot of people who believe in me so that always helps,” said Donegan, a winner last year in his rookie campaign in British Formula Ford 1600 who will celebrate his 21st birthday on March 12. “I’m giving myself every opportunity to win so I’ll keep doing what I do and pushing and see what happens.”
Competitors in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products will take to the track at 7:30 a.m. EST on Friday, March 11, for their 30-minute practice session prior to qualifying for the first of two races at 10:45 a.m. Qualifying for Race Two will take place at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, with the green flag for Race One set for 10:15 a.m. on Saturday and for Race Two as the final activity in a hectic weekend of competition at 5:25 p.m. on Sunday.
Additional coverage of the Mazda Road to Indy can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com.
Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Images and content courtesy of the Mazda Road to Indy.