Minnesota-based squad now second in USF2000 Championship title fight after impressive outing in Rounds Three and Four MINNEAPOLIS, MIN. – Afterburner Autosport showcased its championship-winning pedigree over the weekend (March 23-24), with an impressive double visit to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda podium in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rookie Wyatt Gooden positioned himself as a 2013 title contender with two impressive runner-up finishes at the Florida street circuit, while fellow first-year series racer Brandon Newey also showcased his talents with a top-five and top-10 result. Jake Eidson did not garner the results desired, but he battled through adversity to further display his talents behind the wheel. Afterburner Autosport now lies second in both the driver and team standings, poised to fight for top honors when the action resumes in late May with the lone oval on the championship calendar.
After a solid launch to the 2013 edition of the USF2000 Championship - the first-rung of the Mazda Road to Indy program - at Sebring just one week prior, the entire Afterburner Autosport squad was excited to take on the challenges of street racing in St. Petersburg. Despite having three series rookies behind the wheel, everyone under the team awning was confident of success.
It didn't take long for the Afterburner Autosport name to begin showing up near the top of 31-car scoresheets, as despite focusing on getting acclimatized to the concrete-lined 1.8-mile track and working on car setups, Gooden was third and fifth fastest in the two practice runs, and Eidson's No. 18 Eidson Enterprises/ Afterburner Autosport racer was sixth quickest in the opening session.
Aware that starting positions would likely play a key ingredient in success during the twin bill run in conjunction with the INDYCAR season-opener, all three Afterburner Autosport drivers were keen to post multiple quick laps in the sole qualifying session. For Gooden, the session ran almost exactly as planned, with the No. 17 PerfectPedal.com/Afterburner Autosport steed third fastest when the checkered flag waved. Newey, finding more pace each time he gets behind the wheel, made it two Afterburner cars inside the top-10, earning a row four starting position for race one via the eighth quickest lap. Eidson, unfortunately, was unable to get the speed desired from his racing steed during the traffic-filled session, ultimately posting the 14th best time.
When the Afterburner Autosport trio returned to the cockpits for Round Three, the goal was simple... avoid the expected incidents and move forward. Making the most of the expertise that has earned Afterburner Autosport two SCCA National Championship titles, the trio did just that. Gooden showcased both racecraft and speed during the 21-lap affair, earning both his and the team's first USF2000 Championship podium finish via an impressive drive to second place. Newey likewise displayed his talents in the 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 - advancing up to sixth place when the checkered flag waved. Eidson made it three-for-three with regards to Afterburner Autosport cars going forward in the race, working his way up to 12th at the stripe.
Given the results from race one, spirits were expectedly high under the Afterburner Autosport awning when the skilled USF2000 field rolled back on-course one day later for Round Four prior to the IZOD IndyCar Series race. In repeat of the opening affair at the Florida street circuit, the trio immediately set about going forward when the green flag waved. Making the most of a mechanical problem for the P2 starter, Gooden took over second place into Turn One on the opening lap, and promptly held that position all the way to the checkered flag, securing his second consecutive runner-up finish. Newey further enhanced his growing reputation as an up-and-comer in race two as well, making the most of every opening and opportunity to go from eighth on the grid to fifth at the checkered flag. Eidson meanwhile battled adversity in the 21-lap contest, eventually crossing the line in an unrepresentative 23rd.
"We kept quietly confident going into this weekend after our strong final run in race two at Sebring," commented Gooden. "I knew the momentum gained would be moving us forward into St. Pete, which is exactly what happened. Overall it is a great feeling to get the first podium finishes for the team, and coming out solidly second in the standings puts us in a great position as we go into testing. I'm so happy for the team, as well as my sponsor PerfectPedal.com who is back on board. Finishing with two of our cars in the top-five on Sunday clearly shows how far we have come this season. We're determined to continue to push to get to the top now, settling for what we have achieved now isn't going to happen."
"I was extremely happy to come away from St. Pete with a top-five result," stated Newey. "The Afterburner Autosport team is really making huge strides, and we are just beginning to show what we can do. Tim Walsh has put together a great team, and I cannot thank him enough for letting me be a part of it."
"It was a tough weekend in St. Petersburg," said Eidson. "I wasn't able to get a good qualifying lap in and started the first race P14. I got a good start and made up a few positions, unfortunately I had an incident on the back straight and fell back to 28th. Through the race I was able to make up a lot of positions and finished P12. In the second race, I started P22, and again had good start, but bad sadly had another incident that put me at the back of the pack, finishing 23rd. It was definitely tough, but I got a lot of valuable information about racing on a street circuit. I want to thank the Afterburner Autosport team for all their help and support, and I also want to congratulate the team on their current second place position in the team points, which shows all their dedication and hard work."
The Afterburner Autosport drivers and crew now have an extended break to both reflect and analyze the success in Florida, before embarking on the next challenge of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda... oval racing. Round Five features the lone 'circle track' event on the series calendar, when the prestigious 'Night Before the 500' event is held on May 25th at Lucas Oil Raceway, just down the road from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. Afterburner Autosport enters the event currently second in the team standings, with Gooden second in the driver's championship.
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.