Swan-RJB Motorsports' Baron Wins at St. Pete
 March 13, 2018| 
  • Team News
Swan RJB StP 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – After combining the unique strengths of Swan Motorsports and RJB Motorsports last fall, the new Swan-RJB Motorsports effort struck gold early in their partnership with talented French driver Alex Baron, winning the second race of the doubleheader opening weekend of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Baron was quick out of the gate on the challenging 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street and airport circuit that makes up the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, qualifying on pole for Race 2. After a minor miscue in the first race of the weekend, the 23-year-old stormed back on Sunday to dominate the action and assume fourth place in the championship point standings.

“Working with Alex was fantastic, he's truly a talented driver,” offered Mirl Swan, Team Principal and Lead Engineer. “But he's also very articulate in how he relays information about driving the car. He never stops and never tires of looking for ways to improve himself and the car. His calm but serious persona never changes in or out of the car. I appreciate that mentality, and I will work even harder to improve for the next race. It was a great win.  I'm very happy for the entire team. But, the competition in this series is very (,) very strong. We won't rest now. We will need to double down on our efforts as an entire team to improve before Indy. We are very much looking forward to it.”

The team had only confirmed Baron as their driver in mid-February, but did not attend the official Spring Training test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They did run Alex at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit the week before the St. Petersburg event, so they arrived in Florida prepared to battle for race wins.

Baron posted the sixth fastest time in Race 1 qualifying on Friday afternoon, turning a 1:12.888 to secure the outside of the front row for the 20-lap race that was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Bright and early on Saturday morning, Baron was back on-track for Race 2 qualifying and the set-up changes that were made after the team debrief were spot-on. Alex was the fastest driver on the racetrack and laid down a 1:12.257 to win the pole for the second race of the weekend.

As expected, over-aggressive driving led to an incident on the opening lap in turn one and while Baron escaped unscathed, he was hit with a restart infraction when the race went back to green. After serving a drive-through penalty, Alex stormed back through the field to tenth before minor contact with the wall damaged his left rear suspension, sending him to pit lane with a 22nd place finish.

With the incident from Saturday now fully in Baron’s rearview mirrors, he fully capitalized on his pole position to score a 2.007-second win, the fourth of his MRTI career. While the DNF did no favors for Baron’s championship aspirations, there was not a clearly dominant driver in the USF2000 events, which has allowed Alex to leave St. Petersburg sitting fourth in the overall standings, just 13 points out of first place.

There is now a two-month break in the official USF2000 schedule of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, as the next race is the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 10-12. The team will be organizing a private test before this event, and as they are fully prepared to run as many as three cars in the series, they invite any drivers wanting to test the USF2000 waters to give them a call.

SWAN-RJB MOTORSPORTS – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES

USF2000 – ROUNDS 1/2 – MARCH 9-11, 2018

GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG – ST. PETERSBURG, FL

ALEX BARON - #19

Qualifying 1: 6th – 1:12.888

Qualifying 2: 1st – 1:12.257

Race 1: Start – 6th / Finish – 22nd  

Race 2: Start – 1st / Finish – 1st

Driver Quote: “We had a really positive weekend. I think, as a first event for a fairly new team and very little testing compared to some, we can be really proud of what we have achieved. We had a little struggle from practice to qualifying 1, but we spent all afternoon with the guys to figure out where our weaknesses were without compromising too much of our strengths to bounce back in qualifying 2 on Saturday. Unfortunately, a drive-through penalty was handed to me for a small mistake from the start of Race 1. The car was absolutely dynamite during the race, but I made a mistake after posting the fastest lap of the race, when I was trying to catch up to some competitors, which ended my race prematurely with minor damage to the car. It was a real pity because my pace mid to the end of the race was so much quicker than the rest of the field, which could have resulted in a great finishing spot starting from 6th. Race 2 was the perfect scenario - pole position, led every lap, fastest lap of the race, what more could you ask for?  This result was a great reward after long hours of hard work from every single person on the team. I couldn’t have done it without them, so kudos to them.  To work with Swan-RJB Motorsports was a privilege. Mirl Swan put together a perfect team, always making the right calls and ensuring a reliable and fast car for me. We are privileged to have such generous support from our primary sponsor Fred Edwards, from Metalloid Corporation, and his family. I cannot wait to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Indy again. Thank you to everyone involved who made all of this happen.”

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