In stark contrast to last week’s Indy Pro test at Lucas Oil Raceway, no clear favorite emerged when the USF2000 contenders conducted their own one-day test at the high-banked, high-commitment oval. In fact, 16 of the 19 cars turned laps within a third of a second of each other.
Nevertheless, given his perfect four-for-four start to the season – plus the fact his Cape Motorsports team has won five of the seven most recent events at Lucas Oil Raceway – rookie Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, will have a target on his back as he attempts to keep his streak alive.
“Our test last week went pretty well,” related Eves. “We weren’t the fastest but that wasn’t the goal. We just wanted to learn about the track and make sure we are as well-prepared as possible going into the race.”
Eves, who was sixth fastest overall at the test, just 0.1336 shy of the benchmark, will have to fend off equally highly rated teammate Darren Keane, who perhaps began to turn around a difficult start to the season with a strong second-place finish two weeks ago on the Indianapolis road course. Teenager Reece Gold will drive a third Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.
Fastest of all at the test was Mexican Manuel Cabrera, who is also looking to turn around his fortunes following a tough start to his campaign with Exclusive Autosport. Cabrera has a best finish of 11th to his name from the opening four races, despite showing good speed on the road course when he qualified fourth fastest for Race One. The test also was a case of good news and bad news. Cabrera set the best time of all in the first session but took no further part in the proceedings after overstepping the limit and crashing mere moments before the checkered flag.
Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing, which guided Jake Eidson to victory at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2015, also enjoyed a strong test with three of its four drivers among the top five. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Oconomowoc, Wis., led the way, merely 0.0033-seconds slower than Cabrera and fractionally ahead of Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., and Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship winner Hunter McElrea, from Gold Coast, Australia. McElrea, who also won last year’s Australian Formula Ford Championship, has enjoyed an excellent start to his North American career with four consecutive podium finishes.
Also well to the fore in testing was 14-year-old Jak Crawford, from Houston, Texas. Crawford, who made an impressive series debut at Indianapolis with DEForce Racing, finishing fourth in Race Two, was quickest of all in the final session and ended the day with the fourth fastest time overall.
Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., also found time in the final period, ending the session second fastest only to Crawford for the Indianapolis-based Miller Vinatieri Motorsports team.
The only oval event of the USF2000 season will commence with 30 minutes of practice on Thursday afternoon, followed by qualifying at 6:00 p.m. EDT. The 75-lap Cooper Tires Freedom 75 will kick off the proceedings on Friday, May 24, with the green flag set for 6:45 p.m. after a final practice session at 4:05 p.m.
Both the Cooper Tires Freedom 90 and Cooper Tires Freedom 75 will be live streamed globally on RoadToIndy.TV, the Road to Indy TV App and the series respective websites at indypro2000.com and usf2000.com.