Myles Rowe consolidated his position at the top of the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires point standings following another impressive victory this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway. Rowe, from Brooklyn. N.Y., once again made a lightning start, jumping from third to first at the first corner. Even a couple of late full-course cautions failed to interrupt his dominance as he raced to his third USF Pro 2000 victory in just four starts for Pabst Racing with Force Indy.
Rowe now holds a commanding 42-point lead in his quest to win a Discount Tires Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $664,500 to graduate to Indy NXT in 2024.
Albanian rookie Lirim Zendeli scored his best finish of second for TJ Speed Motorsports, while Kiko Porto, from Recife, Brazil, rebounded from a mechanical problem yesterday which prevented him from even starting the race, to secure his third podium appearance for DEForce Racing.
Last year’s USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion, Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., looked to have put a sequence of unfortunate circumstances behind him this morning when he posted the fastest time in qualifying to claim his first Cooper Tires Pole Award. But after being beaten away from the start by Rowe, d’Orlando’s luck once again turned sour on the second lap when he lost control over the bumps in Turn 1 and gyrated luridly in front of almost the entire field. He was miraculously able to continue, despite another quick gyration at Turn 4, and eventually fought his way back to 11th at the checkered flag.
Fellow front row qualifier Francesco Pizzi, from Rome, Italy, also had a disappointing race for TJ Speed Motorsport. Pizzi lost two positions on the opening lap and later ran out of road at the exit of Turn 1, losing several more places. He placed seventh after an eventful 15-lap race.
Porto, after starting eighth, fought his way past Mexico’s Salvador de Alba (Exclusive Autosport) for third position on the fifth lap, where he remained until the finish.
Two late cautions set the scene for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Rowe made an exemplary restart at the first time of asking, but had to defend rigorously from Zendeli on the final lap, especially at Turn 3, but was not to be denied as he sped onward to the victory.
“It was the race of my life honestly,” Rowe said. “Now that it is all over, I have been trying to close out a weekend winning all of the races since I was 14. It’s been a long road to dominate a weekend and we finally did it today. I’m just ecstatic, my family is ecstatic, the team is ecstatic – I couldn’t be happier. It was also thrilling because it was so calm, cool and collected for 10 of the laps or so and then a full course caution came out when I had an almost 5s gap. Then here I am on the last lap defending three corners on the track to make sure I could hold my spot. Luckily, I kept my head down and we did it. I have to send a big thank-you to Pabst Racing, Force Indy, Penske Entertainment, Sparco, Bell, SimCraft and NXG – all of them. This wouldn’t be possible without them.”
De Alba looked set for fourth until, bizarrely, his car’s fire extinguisher suddenly discharged as he negotiated the tricky Turn 13 on the final lap. Reece Ushijima, directly behind, adeptly avoided the slowing Tatuus, whose driver was completely unsighted by a wave of foam, but behind him, Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing) from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Sweden’s Joel Granfors (Exclusive Autosport) weren’t so fortunate, making contact which dropped both of them far down the order.
Jackson Lee (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Avon, Ind., took advantage of the melee to jump from a solid 10th to record his first top-five finish, narrowly ahead of fellow Indianan Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and Pizzi.
Lee’s avoidance also enabled him to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having lined up 12th on the grid.
Augie Pabst picked up his third PFC Award of the young season as the winning car owner.
The USF Pro 2000 teams and drivers will return to action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course for another pair of races in conjunction with the NTT IndyCar Series on May 11-13.