Talented Trio of Eidson, Gooden and Newey showcased talents with four top-10s during Florida doubleheader
MINNEAPOLIS, MIN. – The professionalism and skill of the Afterburner Autosport squad was on full display this past week (March 14-15) during the season-opening doubleheader of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. With the talented trio of American up-and-comers Jake Eidson, Wyatt Gooden, and Brandon Newey behind the wheels at Sebring International Raceway, the Minnesota-based team earned four top-10 finishes during Rounds One and Two, and is now poised to build on that success this coming weekend (March 23-24) on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
One of the primary goals for Afterburner Autosport entering the 2013 season was to raise their game in every area, and the two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Championship-winning squad has certainly wasted no time doing just that. Right from the cars rolling out of the trailer at the historic Sebring facility, it was apparent that everyone under the awning was focused on the task at hand...challenging for top honors. With that goal in mind, both the opening two promoter's test sessions, and follow-up two practice sessions were spent on car and driver development. This was particularly important, given Newey had never previously piloted his No. 98 Curb Records/Calcium Pro/USANA/Miller Oils/OMP/Bell Helmets/Afterburner Autosport entry - which is run in conjunction with Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian - and both Eidson and Gooden had only contested the opening three rounds of the six-race pre-season Winterfest championship. Despite the limited track time ahead of the doubleheader, all three racers cracked the top-10 at least once, led by Gooden who was inside the top-10 in all four sessions in his No. 17 Ohio Center for Sport Psychology/Afterburner Autosport steed.
Making the most of the great team atmosphere and the knowledge gained in the opening four runs, the Afterburner Autosport cars further impressed in the lone qualifying session. Eidson earned a row three starting position with the sixth best lap in the No. 18 Eidson Enterprises/Afterburner Autosport racer, while Gooden was eighth fastest, and Newey posted the 11th quickest time.
When the skilled 31-car field took the green flag a short time later for race one of the Sebring doubleheader, spirits were high in the Afterburner Autosport pit area, and they remained that way throughout the 12-lap encounter. Showcasing good racecraft lap after lap, all three drivers battled for positions, making the most of any opportunity, while continually gaining valuable series experience. In the end, Eidson was the first of the trio to the stripe, holding station in sixth, just one place in front of Gooden, and not far ahead of Newey in 12th.
Ready to build on this momentum, race two commenced with Eidson, Newey, and Gooden starting in ninth, 12th, and 13th respectively, based on the new series format that utilizes either a driver's fast lap from race one or his second best qualifying lap. As expected, all three drivers further displayed their growing talents in the race, which featured a lengthy full-course caution, but the completion of all 12 laps. Gooden proved to be one of the racers to watch during the affair, advancing all the way to sixth at the checkered flag. Newey, becoming more and more acclimated to his new car and team, likewise moved forward, ending in 10th place. Eidson, despite turning laps on par with his teammates and the top-10, crossed the line in 24th, one lap down due to a mechanical issue.
"Once again Afterburner Autosport is continuing the rapid progress as a team," commented Gooden. "Sebring was an uphill battle for us from the beginning, so to end the weekend fifth in points is a real confidence booster, especially this early on in the season. Tim Jennings, my engineer, really got the car where I knew it could be. I also can't say enough about the level of driving in the series this year. It's an honor to be a part of such a strong field. I'm looking forward to continuing the momentum this week in St Pete."
"After racing this last weekend with the Afterburner Autosport team, I know that I left with a lot more knowledge and experience that I will apply to future racing," said Eidson. "The first rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship at Sebring International Raceway was filled with a lot of ups and downs. After an extremely close qualifying session, we were able to start the first race in sixth place. After having a good start, I was able to finish where I started in sixth. For the second race, I started a little further back in ninth. I was able to get a good start, but unfortunately lost a few positions due to a few close calls. I was able to make up a few of the positions that I lost, but had an unfortunate incident on the last lap, and couldn't finish the race due to a gearbox issues. Overall I'm very pleased with the Afterburner Autosport team and my performance. I'm looking forward to applying everything I learned these last few days to future racing."
"For my first time in the car with the team, I'm really happy with how Sebring went," stated Newey. "We weren't able to do any testing, so finishing inside the top-10 was great. Everyone at Afterburner Autosport has made me feel right at home, and they do a great job. I'm looking forward to improving even more at St. Pete."
Afterburner Autosport and its talented drivers will get the opportunity to immediately build on this early season success, as Rounds Three and Four of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda takes place this coming weekend (March 23-24) in St. Petersburg, Fla. As part of the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener, the street racing action gets underway on Friday (March 22) with a pair of practice sessions. Day Two features a morning qualifying session and Round Three at 12:15 pm local time, before the Florida doubleheader concludes on Sunday (March 24), with Round Four at 9:30 am local time. Live timing and scoring will be available at www.f2000.com/Multimedia/Live.aspx.
Additional information on Afterburner Autosport is available from the team’s website: www.afterburnerautosport.com. For direct contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 630-251-1709.
Keep up to date via Twitter @ ABautosport1 and Facebook page @ Afterburner-Autosport.
Learn more about Brandon Newey at BrandonNewey.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ BNEWEY and Facebook @ Brandon.Newey.
Learn more about Wyatt Gooden at WyattGooden.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ WyattGooden and Facebook @ WyattGoodenRacing.
Learn more about Jake Eidson at JakeEidsonRacing.com and keep up to date via Facebook @ JacobEidsonRacing.
### About Afterburner Autosport:
Afterburner Autosport was formed in 2010 with the sole purpose of leading the way in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition. Under the guidance of two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Champion Brian Tomasi and fellow F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition. The Minnesota, Min.-based squad, having captured two podium finishes in its inaugural pro racing season last year, made its USF2000 Championship debut in 2012, fielding multiple cars in the top Championship class. The squad returns to the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy program with an expanded multi-car effort in 2013.