Minnesota-based team captured second win in four races with Round 14 victory in Houston
MINNEAPOLIS, MIN. – The 2013 edition of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda ended in ideal fashion for Afterburner Autosport this past weekend (October 5-6), as the Minnesota-based team scored a win on the streets of Houston, Texas. French rookie Alex Baron captured his second victory in four races, while fellow first-year series stars Wyatt Gooden and Brandon Newey both added top-five finishes in the season-finale doubleheader. With the fine performance, the highly-regarded squad came home third in the team points fight.
A month after taking home an inaugural USF2000 Championship win in California, the talented Afterburner Autosport team returned to action on the streets around Reliant Park in Houston for the finale two races of the 2013 campaign. With the skilled trio of Baron, Gooden, and Newey under the awning for the Texas twin bill, the goal was simple...challenge for top honors.
While street circuits always provide plenty of challenges, Afterburner Autosport and the rest of the USF2000 field had the added obstacle of changing grip levels and track layout revisions to overcome in Houston. The Afterburner trio promptly made the most of every lap during the lone practice run and the subsequent qualifying session to further improve their racing steeds.
The timed session to set the grid for Round 13 proved to be an up-and down affair for the Minnesota team. Baron once again showcased his pace and skill in qualifying, turning the third best time in the No. 18 Afterburner Autosport/13th Avenue entry. Unfortunately, an issue in post-qualifying technical inspection resulted in the loss of all his times, and a starting position for the opening race at the rear of the field. Gooden and Newey likewise did not earn the grid positions they desired, with the duo encountering traffic during the best tours, placing them 11th and 15th on the final timesheets respectively.
Putting the trying session behind them, the Afterburner crew and drivers were confident that come race time they could advance up through the field. When the green flag waved on Saturday morning, that is exactly what happened. Gooden's No. 17 Afterburner Autosport /PerfectPedal.com racer was one to watch during the 13-lap affair, the Ohio native executed pass after pass, ultimately charging all the way up to an impressive fourth place at the checkered flag. Newey and Baron additionally made the most of every opportunity to gain positions, in the end crossing the line in 11th and 18th respectively.
Given the performances in race one, confidence was high under the Afterburner Autosport tent entering race two in Texas. That being said, mother nature decided to provide another challenge, with rain and a very wet track greeting the USF2000 racers for Round 14. Baron, starting P3 after positing third best lap in the opening race, promptly made the most of the low grip levels when the green flag waved, vaulting into first place. Once out front, the French rookie proved unstoppable, lapping significantly quicker than his pursuers as he established a multi-car advantage. Behind the runaway leader, the No. 98 Afterburner Autosport/Curb Records/Calcium Pro/USANA/Miller Oils/OMP/Bell Helmets/Bryan Herta Autosport of Newey was just as impressive, as the Indiana rookie was passing car after car. Unfortunately it was not all good news for Afterburner Autosport, as Gooden's race came to a premature end after just two laps.
While a late race full-course caution reduced his lead, Baron never came under any threat of note, leading Afterburner Autosport back to victory lane for the second time in four races. Not far behind at the checkered flag, Newey earned his best result of the season and Tilton Hard Charger Award with a fifth place finish.
"I have been driving in the rain since I was small, so I have a good feeling with it," stated Baron. "The car was very good, and I would like to thank my team for that. It was a perfect race for me. I tried to pull away as far as possible for the first laps and be careful for the rest of the race, because I know this track is quite tricky in some areas, and I didn’t want to lose the win with a simple mistake. I would like to thank Afterburner Autosport and everyone that surrounds me."
"The Afterburner Autosport team had an awesome weekend in Houston, and I'm glad I could be a part of it," commented Newey. "After my crash in qualifying I had to dig myself out of a hole, so it was great to come away with a top-five in the rain in the last race of the season. I had a really fun season with the team, and I'm sad it had to end. I will always be thankful to Tim and Brian for letting me be a part of it all."
"We achieved our goal of a top-five in the championship, and I couldn't be happier for the team," said Gooden. "There is no doubt in my mind that with the experienced gained this season, Afterburner will be even stronger in 2014."
"It's great to end the season with another win, particularly since we had to tear apart cars to repair broken clutches because of the rough Houston track," added team principal Tim Walsh. "The engineers, mechanics, and drivers all performed at a very high level the entire year, proving Afterburner Autosport will continue to be a top race team in the future. Young and upcoming drivers will reach their winning goals in an Afterburner Autosport car. Thank you to the entire team for a very successful year. Today we start working on another great season in 2014."
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season ended with Afterburner Autosport in a well-deserved third in the team standings, while Gooden and Newey finished fifth and 13th in the championship fight.
Additional information on Afterburner Autosport is available from the team’s website @ www.AfterburnerAutosport.com For direct contact, please email email@example.com or call Brian Tomasi @ 630-251-1709 or Tim Walsh @ 612-581-2499.
Keep up to date via Twitter @ ABautosport1 and Facebook page @ Afterburner Autosport.
Keep up to date with Alex Baron via Twitter @ AlexBaronPro and Facebook @ Alex Baron.
Learn more about Wyatt Gooden at WyattGooden.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ WyattGooden and Facebook @ Wyatt Gooden Racing.
Learn more about Brandon Newey at BrandonNewey.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ BNEWEY and Facebook @ Brandon Newey.
### 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 team principal Tim Walsh, an F2000 racer and engineer, and two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Champion Brian Tomasi, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition. The Minnesota-based squad, having captured two podium finishes in its inaugural pro racing season in 2011, made its USF2000 Championship debut in 2012, fielding multiple cars in the top Championship class. The squad returned to the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy program with an expanded multi-car effort in 2013.