Road to Indy
May 9, 2019 | 3:00 PM
Right from the get-go, Braden Eves has been a thorn in the side of USF2000 competitors.
Eves impressed onlookers with a pair of strong qualifying performances during his USF2000 debut at Portland International Raceway, Ore., last fall, and then even more so when he began the new season with a perfect pair of victories in St. Petersburg.
True, one of them was gifted to him when Cape Motorsports teammate Darren Keane made a mistake on the final corner and eliminated both himself and second-place runner Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), but Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, who turned 20 last week, certainly showed he will be a leading contender for honors as the 2019 season progresses.
Keane, from Boca Raton, Fla., will be anxious to rebound from a desperately disappointing weekend in his home state. Fastest both in preseason testing and in the opening official practice session at St. Pete, Keane was forced to start the first race from the back of the field after his car’s transponder failed during qualifying.
He then showed his skills by dodging a variety of incidents to make up 12 positions before the checkered flag fell. He also set the fastest race lap.
Denmark’s Rasmussen, too, will be hoping for rather better fortune following that Race Two incident which had followed a strong run to fourth on Saturday.
Another of the preseason favorites, Alex Baron, from Narbonne, France, similarly struck misfortune in Florida. Baron crashed heavily on the opening lap after qualifying a seventh fastest, but repaid the efforts of his Legacy Autosport team, which completely rebuilt his demolished Tatuus USF-17 overnight, by finishing fourth on Sunday.
After winning one of the races at Indy last year, Baron has his eyes set on a repeat performance – or two – this week.
Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship winner Hunter McElrea currently holds second in the point standings after securing a pair of podium finishes for Pabst Racing on his debut. The talented rookie, who carries dual American and New Zealand citizenship yet lives in Gold Coast, Australia, also was fastest during the traditional Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy Test at Indianapolis last fall.
Rookie Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing), from Mexico, and Zach Holden, from Greenfield, Ind., also stood out from a stacked field at St. Pete. Sulaiman chased home Eves in the opener, while Holden’s late agreement to join BN Racing brought dividends in the form of a third-place finish in Race Two.
The long list of potential front-runners this week will include the Pabst Racing pair of Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., and Brazil’s Bruna Tomaselli, the only woman in the field, who scored a pair of top-seven finishes in St. Pete.
Then there’s Englishman Matt Round-Garrido (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Australian Cameron Shields (Newman Wachs Racing), plus second-generation racers Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., and Eduardo Barrichello, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who are teammates at Miller Vinatieri Motorsports.
Remarkably, there will be no fewer than three 14-year-olds among the field. Puerto Rico-based Reece Gold claimed a pair of top-10 finishes for Cape Motorsports in Florida, while California’s Nolan Siegel also made his debut with Newman Wachs Racing.
This week they will be joined by long-time karting star Jak Crawford, from Houston, Texas, who was too young to compete at St. Petersburg but has already established his credentials during several impressive weekends with DEForce Racing in the NACAM F4 Championship.
The USF2000 schedule virtually mirrors that of Indy Pro 2000 with testing, practice and qualifying on Thursday and Friday, capped by races at 2:45 p.m. EDT on Friday and 9:15 a.m. on Saturday.
Both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 will feature global live streaming of all sessions on the Road to Indy TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, usf2000.com, indypro2000.com and indycar.com.
Header image and content by Road to Indy Media.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.