The Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship has been around in one form or another since 1990, but the reinvented version you see today was launched by Dan Andersen in 2010.
The single make series utilizes a Van Diemen Elan chassis, that is powered by an 150 horsepower Mazda MZR 2-liter engine, and is shod with 13 inch slick Cooper Tires. The drivers shift gears utilizing a Hewland 5-speed sequential gearbox and the series is fueled by Sunoco.
The series was won by rookie drivers the first three years after reintroduction, but the past two season have seen sophomore drivers take home the valuable Mazda advancement scholarship.
Expect quick and experienced sophomores like Jake Eidson, Victor Franzoni and Aaron Telitz to pounce early, before the bumper rookie crop catches up to them.
Previous USF2000 winners on the 1.8 mile St. Petersburg street circuit include: Victor Franzoni, RC Enerson, Scott Hargrove, Spencer Pigot, Petri Suvanto and Sage Karam (who will be making his second Verizon IndyCar Series start this weekend).
The schedule for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is as follows:
Cape Motorsports with /WTR
If you look up successful racing enterprises in the dictionary, you’ll find Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda stalwarts Cape Motorsports with /WTR. The St. Petersburg based squad has captured the last four USF2000 driver crowns and the last three team championships. With sophomore pilots Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin behind the wheel this year, expect more of the same.
After a successful Skip Barber and Formula Ford career, Telitz made the move to the Mazda Road To Indy in 2014. The 23 year-old scored one victory, and six podiums on the way to 4th place and rookie of the year honors in USF2000. Telitz showed remarkable consistency after getting familiar with the USF2000 car, compiling eight straight top seven finishes to finish out the season. Making the offseason switch form ArmsUp Motorsports to Cape Motorsports with /WTR to pilot the Rice Lake Weighing Systems sponsored No. 3, the native of Birchwood, Wisconsin had an up and down Cooper Tires Winterfest, showing constant speed, but inconsistent results. It would be surprising if Telitz was not contending for wins and be a championship contender all season long.
Nico Jamin spent one season in French Formula 4, and one season in Formula Renault 2.0 before making the move to the U.S.A. to contest the 2014 USF 2000 championship. The Rouen, France native split the season with Belardi Auto Racing and Pabst Racing, compiling eight top tens and one podium on the way to a ninth place championship finish. The No. 2 sponsored by Synova Automotive Eco-Plastics of 19 year-old Jamin was one of the surprises of Winterfest as he started all five races in the top 3 and scored one win and four podiums on the way to a narrow championship victory. If Jamin continues the form he showed at NOLA Motorsports Park and Barber in February, he will be one to keep an eye on and should be in championship contention when the series ends at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September.
For 2015, the Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin based ArmsUp Motorsports will be fielding a three car team for: Keyran Andres Soori, Max Hanratty and James Dayson. The team is owned and managed by brothers Gregg and Brent Borland, both of whom spent extensive time working in the Skip Barber racing school program.
It’s hard to believe that a 15 year-old will be a USF2000 sophomore, but that’s the case for Keyran Andres Soori, who will move from Cape Motorsports with /WTR to ArmsUp Motorsports to pilot the silver and gold No. 5. The Cologne, Germany native who calls Naples, Florida home had a consistent season in 2014, scoring five top tens while learning all of the tracks he will be racing on in 2015. Due to an illness at Barber Motorsports Park, the high school sophomore was only able to take part in the three Winterfest rounds at NOLA Motorsports Park, but showed steady improvement from 2014 by improving from an average finish of 13.1 to 9.0. With his experience on the MRTI tracks, expect Andres Soori to compete for top fives and a top eight championship finish should be well within reach.
Max Hanratty will be piloting the Juniper Networks/SynerComm Inc. sponsored No. 6 during his rookie USF2000 season. The 21 year-old didn’t start racing until he took part in a three day Skip Barber racing school as a 19 year-old. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident has spent the past two years in Canada, contesting the Toyo tires F16000 Championship and Formula Tour 1600 Championship. He collected almost ten podiums during his two seasons “North of the Border.” Hanratty had an uneventful Winterfest, completing all but one lap and showing increased pace each session out. Expect the relative newcomer in racing to use 2015 as a learning season with top 10 finishes being the goal.
James Dayson, who will be appearing with ArmsUp Motorsports for the third consecutive season, is not your everyday racing story. The 36 year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia did not start his racing career until 2011. He spent one year testing before moving to USF2000 National Class in 2012 and 2013. It’s been a joy to watch “Jimmy” get quicker each time he steps in the car, but it’s an even bigger joy to get to know him. The new father and business owner has an unmatched joie de vivre and his infectious desire to improve is something all younger drivers would be wise to emulate.
Augie Lerch will be behind the wheel for Palmetto, Florida based JAY Motorsports, a family affair helmed by former competitive driver and ace mechanic, Jay Green. The team, with numerous SCCA championships under it’s belt, scored it’s first USF2000 win in 2015, when Adrian Starrantino took home a victory during the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Lerch will be making his USF2000 debut in the No. 12 sponsored by Shashi/PJ’s Performance/Hi Speed Customs and Rods. The 18 year-old karting standout made his “car” debut last year, scoring a win on the way to an impressive third place finish in the competitive F1600 Formula F Championship Series. The Tuscon, Arizona native made his USF2000 debut at Winterfest this February, completing every lap and showing improved pace during every session. It would be surprising if Lerch wasn’t in the hunt for top five race finishes by the end of the season and a top 10 points finish would be a great accomplishment for only his second year in formula cars.
Owner Tim Walsh, manager/mechanic Brian Tomasi and engineer Tim Jennings have built Afterburner Autosport into a USF2000 team to be reckoned with. The Minnesota based squad will be rejoined by sophomore Victor Franzoni in a quest for the the championship.
The super-speedy Franzoni will be piloting the Novac Sports/XYZ Talents/E-QUAL sponsored No. 17 during the 2015 season. After two seasons competing in Formula Renault 2.0 in Europe, the 19 year-old made quite a splash on his move to the U.S.A., winning one race, while stepping up to the podium four times on the way to a fifth place championship finish. The native of Sao Paulo, Brazil showed impressive pace as well, scoring a top five quickest race lap in 10 of 14 races contest. His raw speed and passing ability was on display again during Winterfest, as he passed a ton of cars and scored two victories on the way to a runner-up finsih. Expect him to be battling Aaron Telitz and Jake Eidson for the race wins and the season long championship.
USF2000 sophomore Jake Eidson and rookie Yufeng Luo will be the season long entries for Pabst Racing, an Oconomowoc, Wisconsin based team was founded in 1983 by Augie Pabst, Jr., a sports car legend. The team has decades of experience preparing Van Diemen F2000 cars and is currently helmed by Augie Pabst III.
The 19 year-old Eidson spent the 2014 USF2000 season fighting with Florian Latorre and RC Enerson for top spot and a Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship, but fell just short, using two victories and nine podiums to finish third, only 19 points behind eventual champion Latorre. Eidson, who calls Littleton Colorado home, scored two wins, one pole, four podiums and three quickest laps during the recent Winterfest, but fell just short of a championship after a fuel pump failed on the first lap of the final race. It would be a surprise if Eidson is not near the top of the box scores, and championship table on a week in and week out basis.
Luo, the pilot of the No. 23 spent 2014 contesting the Pacific Formula F2000 championship, where he scored four podiums and one pole in five races. The Beijing, China native and Los Angeles, California resident contested the first three races of Winterfest and showed amazing consistency with two 10th and one 11th place finish. The 16 year-old high school student should consider this season a success if he brings home similar results to Winterfest.
John Cummiskey Racing
John Cummiskey Racing, which is based in Indianapolis, contested four USF2000 races in 2014, and scored an impressive seventh place finish in Toronto with Canadian Driver Nathan Blok. Cummiskey has decades of experience in the Verizon IndyCar Series as a chief mechanic with Team Penske, Team Green Racing, Newman-Haas Racing and Dragon Racing. His drivers for 2015 will be Australian Formula Ford veterans Anthony Martin and Jordan Lloyd.
After a successful karting career, Martin, a 19 year-old, won the Western Australian Formula Ford Championship in 2014 and in 2013, was the vice champion and Rookie of The Year. He will pilot the No. 33 sponsored by Burgess BLA. The Kalgoorlie, Australia native was one of the pleasant surprises of Winterfest, where he stood on the podium twice on the way to taking home third in the championship. Martin also showed impressive pace, four times scoring the fourth quickest lap of the race. If Martin continues to show the pace and race craft that he demonstrated at NOLA Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park, expect to see him contend for podiums all year long. A top five in the championship would not come as a surprise.
Martin did not have the only surprising performance of Winterfest as his teammate and fellow Australian, Jordan Lloyd proved that he too would be a factor for the podium in 2015. Lloyd is an 18 year old from Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power’s hometown of Toowoomba and won six races on his way to the vice-championship of the Australian Formula For Championship. He scored on podium, and four top tens on his way to a eight place finish. Expect him to contend for top fives all season long.
For the second straight year, the family run Dare to Dream Motorsports will be contesting the USF2000 championship with Andrew List. The Rogers, Minnesota team is operated by Jim List and has experience in karting and also SCCA competition.
Sophomore pilot List will be piloting the No. 61 D2D Motorsports Van Diemen/Mazda. After multiple karting and SCCA (Formula Continental & Formula Enterprise) championships, the 21 year-old made the move to the Mazda Road To Indy in 2014. The Robbinsdale Minnesota native continued to add pace to his stellar race craft throughout the 2014 season and earned the USF2000 Tilton Hard Charger Award for improving 54 positions during the 14 race season. Expect to see List continue his improvement in 2015 and regularly contend for top 10 finishes.
Santiago Lozano will be contesting a second year with Miami based M2 Autsoport, a mainstay in Latin American racing, including winning three 6 Hours of Bogata championships and competing in the Copa Corona and Panam GP Series.
Piloting the No. 79, Lozano will be looking to improve on his rookie season that saw him score one top ten and gain 26 positions in 12 races. He did take part in the first three Winterfest races at NOLA Motorsports Park, but was forced to miss the last two at Barber Motorsports Park after suffering a nasty looking crash in a wet practice session. Lozano will look to continue to improve his pace and race craft while competing for top 15 results.
Parker Thompson will be the only USF2000 entry for Mazda Road To Indy stalwarts JDC Motorsports. The Minnesota based squad is led by John Church and has over two decades of championship winning experience.
Thompson, a native of Red Deer, Alberta made his debut in a formula car during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, 2014. The 16 year-old karting champion was impressive in that debut, scoring the fourth quickest time during the two day trial run. Thompson might not have a lot of experience on the track, but he should have a great support system, with 2004 Indianapolis 500 and 2009 24 Hours of Daytona champion Buddy Rice, serving as his mentor. Thompson continued his impressive consistency during Winterfest, completing all 87 laps contested. He scored top 10’s in each race and showed improving pace each race. He could be one of the surprises of the 2015 USF2000 season as he gets more comfortable in his first foray into formula cars. Don’t be surprised to see him contending for top five finishes and a top seven championship finish is well within his grasp.
Earlier this year, Florida based Team Pelfrey announced that the would be adding a USF2000 program to complete their in-house road to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire. The team will now field cars in The F1600 Formula F Championship, USF2000 and Pro Mazda. Making the jump from F1600 to USF2000 within the same team will be Ayla Agren, Garth Rickards and Nikita Lastochkin. They will be joined by the winner of the Skip Barber Championship Shootout, Luke Gabin.
Agren, who will pilot the Energima/BVR/Alt I Asfalt/Salming Hockey/ KNA/CoForce/WSF sponsored No. 81, is the reigning F1600 champion, where she won three times on the way to the crown. The 21 year-old started racing karts at age seven and made the move to the USA in 2012 to compete in the Skip Barber Series before making the move to F1600. Hailing from Oslo, Norway, Agren showed showed consistent improvement during Winterfest as she learned the new car. She had top tens in the final three races and had the sixth quickest lap in the final race at Barber Motorsports Park. With her previous pedigree, she should be expected to contest for top tens early in the season and top fives by the time the series gets to Mid-Ohio in August.
Rickards won a race and scored four quickest laps to finish in second in the F1600 championship, just behind his teammate Agren. The 22 year-old did not make his racing debut until 2012, when he completed a three day Skip Barber school. 2013 saw him move up to the Skip Barber Racing Series where he won three races and stood on the podium six times in only eight races. The Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native was one of the surprises of Winterfest where he pilot the Rahal Automotive Group sponsored No. 83 to a four top five finishes. He gained an impressive 13 positions in the five race series. Rickards has proven that he is a quick learner, and he should be expected to contend for top fives on a regular basis. A top eight showing would be impressive for someone competing in their third season in cars.
The third Australian in the series, Gabin will be behind the wheel of the MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Mandurah Panel and Paint/Colbyson sponsored No. 82. Gabin is the most recent winner of the $200,000 Mazdaspeed scholarship award to the winner of the Skip Barber Championship Shootout. The 19 year-old made his U.S.A. debut in the Skip Barber Karting Shootout, which he also won. During the five race Winterfest series Gabin showed that he would have the speed to be a constant threat to finish in the top eight. With a little more consistency, the Perth, Australia native should be in competition for top fives with his teammates Agren and Rickards.
The fourth member of Team Pelfrey is Lastochkin, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 84 sponsored by Russkaya Mekhanika. The Moscow, Russia native and Los Angeles California native did not turn a wheel (including karting) until he took a Skip Barber course in 2013. 2014 saw him contest an amazing 58 races across three different series (Skip Barber, F1600 Formula F Championship Series and Pacific Formula F1600). He scored 16 poles, 12 wins and 29 podiums during his busy season. Nikita Lastochkin had an up and down Winterfest that saw him start a race as high as fifth and concluded with a best race finish of eighth. Expect to see the 24 year-old get comfortable quickly and be in contention for top 10 race results and a top 10 championship finish.
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