Speedway, Ind. – For the second straight day at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a rookie driver claimed his first-ever victory in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. This time it was 19-year-old Californian Adrian Starrantino (#91 Autoworld Collision Center/PPG Van Diemen-Mazda) who made the breakthrough, overtaking Brazilian Victor Franzoni on Lap 11 and holding off a determined challenge from Frenchman Florian Latorre to claim what was also the first-ever USF2000 win for Jay Green’s JAY Motorsports team.
Clear blue skies greeted the 22-car USF2000 field for this morning’s 18-lap race on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, and despite starting in the fourth position it was Franzoni who headed the field into Turn One for Afterburner Autosport. Starrantino, who started from the pole by virtue of posting the fastest lap of the weekend during yesterday’s wet/dry race, slotted into second place with fellow front row starter Clarke Toppe (JDC MotorSports) in third.
The race was interrupted briefly by a full-course caution after two laps to remove Austin Cindric’s Pabst Racing Van Diemen-Mazda from the gravel trap in Turn Four, after which Franzoni set a fast pace at the restart to maintain his advantage.
Starrantino, who moved to Indianapolis last year to pursue his racing career by working part-time for the Bryan Herta Autosport Verizon IndyCar Series team, stayed glued to Franzoni’s rear wing until, on Lap 11, he poked his car’s nose inside his rival to take over the lead. The Brazilian tried to regain the place later in the lap at Turn 10, only to slide wide and allow Latorre to move into second.
For the remainder of the race, Latorre set a series of fast laps as he gradually tracked down Starrantino, but the American made not the hint of an error and took the checkered flag a scant 0.3394 second in front of his rival.
Franzoni, hindered by locking rear brakes, narrowly held onto third in the face of a stiff late challenge from Toppe who claimed his best finish to date in the regular season. Henrik Furuseth (JAY Motorsports), whose pole-winning lap yesterday was disallowed following post-qualifying technical inspection, drove a sensational opening lap by rising from 20th on the grid to seventh. He eventually finished fifth, earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award in the process.
German Keyvan Andres-Soori also charged impressively to a career-best sixth after starting 18th. Fellow 14-year-old Colton Herta set the fastest lap of the race in yet another JAY Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian entry on Lap 16, but ended his race in the gravel trap on the very next lap after tangling with Frenchman Nico Jamin (Belardi Auto Racing) while disputing 12th place.
Additional awards included the RePlay XD Move of the Race to Franzoni for his move from fourth to first at the start; the PFC Award and customized Race Energy charger – the official battery of the ladder series – to the winning team of JAY Motorsports; and the Staubli Award to Starrantino.
Round Seven of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will also take place in the Indianapolis area – at the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval in nearby Brownsburg, Ind., as part of the traditional “Night Before the 500" on Saturday, May 24.
Adrian Starrantino, #91 Autoworld Collision Center/PPG (JAY Motorsports): “I can’t even explain the feeling. We had a pretty rough weekend at Barber and it was looking rough here. I stayed up late last night just figuring out how to make the car work. We had some contact yesterday and came in and put on slick tires to try to get track position for today and it worked. I am so happy for the team and everyone. It’s crazy. My team was on the radio ‘four to go, three to go, two to go’ and there is nothing like the last lap. I think we put on a great show. I was feeling the pressure the last couple of corners but we got it done. I can’t explain the feeling of crossing the bricks and being the first one to the checkered flags. It was beautiful.”