Gooden, Newey, and team newcomer Slaghekke ready to continue early season run of form during Night Before the 500
MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – Afterburner Autosport resumes what has been an impressive start to its quest for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda supremacy on Saturday (May 25), when it takes to the Lucas Oil Raceway oval in Indiana. In conjunction with the famed Night Before the 500 event, the Minnesota-based squad will contest the lone 'circle track' race on the series calendar with highly-regarded rookies Wyatt Gooden, Brandon Newey, and Jeroen Slaghekke getting behind the wheels and ready to challenge for top honors.
When the USF2000 Championship cars return action at Lucas Oil Raceway as part of the Indianapolis 500 festivities, one of the teams everyone will be keeping an eye on is Afterburner Autosport. The reason for the attention is a result of the squad's strong run of form in the opening four rounds in Florida back in March, which witnessed a pair of runner-up finishes, an additional top-five result, and seven total top-10s. That being said, Round Five in Indiana presents a new challenge...oval racing. The Afterburner Autosport team and its drivers don't, however, enter one of the premier events on the series calendar empty-handed, with a top-10 finish last year on its resume, and a full day of official series testing recently completed.
Prior to Gooden, Newey, and team newcomer Slaghekke sampling the 0.686-mile banked oval for a first time via testing, the trio took part in the annual Mazda Road to Indy Oval Clinic. Featuring information, insight, and instruction from INDYCAR leaders and Mazda Road to Indy graduates, the Afterburner racers gained valuable knowledge and pointers. This was promptly put to use one day later in three tests sessions. In less than ideal cool conditions, all three Afterburner Autosport drivers went through a planned program of driver and car development. With car setup being a key factor on a oval, they steadily gained confidence, experience, and speed. When the final checkered flag waved, the trio were in striking distance of one another on the timesheets just outside of the top-10, having most importantly gathered extensive data and experience.
"As a team we've all been working well together, which has allowed us to have very productive tests in early May," commented No.17 PerfectPedal.com Afterburner Autosport racer Gooden. "With that being said, I'm eager to get out on the oval and put on an exciting show this weekend!"
"I'm very much looking forward to my first oval race with the Afterburner Autosport guys," commented Newey, who drives the No. 98 Curb Records/Calcium Pro/USANA/Miller Oils/OMP/Bell Helmets Bryan Herta Autosport/Afterburner Autosport entry. "After going and testing on the oval for the first time, I'm very excited about our car, and think we will be very competitive come race time. Tim and Brian have been working really hard to make sure we continue to be strong in the races, and I'm sure it will transfer over to the oval race."
"Testing at Lucas Oil Raceway went very well," stated Slagehekke, who will pilot the No. 18 Carriere/W-H Sports Group Afterburner Autosport entry. "It was my first time working with the team, and I am very happy to be working with such a capable and motivated group of people. I'm looking forward to Lucas Oil Raceway, where after a strong test, we know where to still improve, and I firmly believe we can put on a very strong result."
The pursuit of an inaugural Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda win at Lucas Oil Raceway starts for Afterburner Autosport on Friday (May 25) with three test runs. The Night Before the 500 event officially commences one day later with two afternoon practice runs, prior to single car qualifying on the oval. Round Five is scheduled to get the green flag under the lights in front of a large crowd at 7:40 pm local time. Afterburner Autosport enters the prestigious event currently second in the team standings, with Gooden second, and Newey eighth in the driver's championship. Live timing and scoring will be available at www.f2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx