St. Petersburg, FL – For his second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda weekend ever, Screaming Monkey Racing with ArmsUp Motorsports driver Tim Paul was looking to improve upon two solid finishes at his debut at Sebring a week prior. A promising run through the field in Race One on the 1.8-mile street track at St. Petersburg was ended just corners from the finish, however, as the No. 6 CellMark Paper entry tangled with lapped traffic.
Paul, an AJ Foyt Racing development driver, had been running in 12th place in the 31-car field for a good portion of the race, wheeling a Van Diemen/Zetec, as opposed to the Van Diemen/Mazda – the popular engine package for the USF2000 series.
“St. Petersburg was a completely different animal than Sebring’s road course,” said Paul, of his first time on city streets. “We were closer, in terms of lap times, but I struggled a little with really getting up to speed as it was my first street course. However, in Race One I managed to fight my way from deep in the pack to ninth at one point. Our race was ended in Turn Three on the final lap by a lapped car and a hard impact with the outside wall but I think we showed some great speed in that first race. I wish more then anything we could have brought it home clean, but that’s not the case.”
The Franklin Pierce University student from Mahopac, N.Y., lived to fight another day, but for Race Two on Sunday, the car didn’t have the same outright speed it displayed on Saturday.
“Race Two saw me struggle to try and find some of the momentum we had claimed through the early part of the weekend, and eventually a front brake line issue sidelined us for several laps as the ArmsUp Motorsport team worked hard,” Paul added. “Unbelievably they were able to fix the problem right there in pit lane and we got out to finish the race, albeit a few laps down. Perseverance is the key, and we were able to retain a sense of pride in being able to finish, all things considered.”
Added benefits to the St. Petersburg weekend included a packed house of fans who were treated to USF2000 in addition to the IZOD IndyCar Series, the full Mazda Road to Indy ladder and the Pirelli World Challenge. Paul was also able to participate in a fan forum, featuring USF2000 drivers, meet hundreds of fans at a driver autograph session and attended a series marketing seminar with eventual St. Petersburg Grand Prix winner James Hinchcliffe.
For the first year USF2000 driver, the two opening weekends can be considered a success, having signed with the team just weeks before the year.
Starting with the next round, on the oval at Lucas Oil Speedway at the Night Before the 500, Paul will be at the wheel of a Mazda-powered Van Diemen, painted in Mazda’s famous green and orange scheme under the SMR/ArmsUp banner.
It will also mark his first USF2000-style oval race, with Paul bringing years of midget, sprint car and mini-sprint oval experience to the table, joined by Screaming Monkey Racing engineer Glenn Phillips and lead mechanic Michael Witson.
Currently, Paul, 28-years-old, sits 23rd in the points race, but hopes to improve come the next round of the championship on the oval in May.
Explained Paul: “My time in USF2000 has been up and down so far – but as the old cliché goes, if it were easy, everyone would do it. I have a great team who I just really integrated well with, and I am pleased to say that we will be working with them the rest of the USF2000 season. They have done an amazing job with my last minute signing, and I think by the end of the year you should be able to find us in the mix up at the front.”
The immediate future holds even more track time for Paul, with a planned series test on an oval in May, but prior to that, he will be at VIR for the F2000 Championship Series with GTP Motorsports, April 11-14.
Learn more about Tim on TimPaulDrive.com and ScreamingMonkeyRacing.com.