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DEHARDE: Making the Case of Five Contenders for 2017 USF2000 Title

By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer

In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, quite a few drivers have their eyes set on the Mazda  scholarship award that will move them up to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. 

However, each driver has something working against them, so let’s take a look at five drivers who could win the USF2000 championship, and why they might not.

Oliver Askew

Askew has many years in karting and represented Team USA in the Formula Ford Festival and at the Walter Hayes Memorial Trophy event at Silverstone Circuit in England. The Floridian also won the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and with it the $200,000 scholarship funding the vast majority of a USF2000 ride with Cape Motorsports

Why he will win the title: All Askew knows is how to go fast. It’s how he won the chance to represent the United States and it’s how he won the scholarship. It also helps that he’s driving for the team that’s won the championship for six consecutive seasons.

Why he won’t win the title: Inexperience. He knows only what he’s gained from three race weekends in cars before going to England for his Formula Ford races and then back to the U.S. for the shootout. Limited experience will be a big negative, but if he picks up the tracks quickly, then who knows.

Parker Thompson

Thompson has two full seasons of USF2000 competition under his belt. He drove for JDC Motorsports in 2015 and Cape Motorsports last year. Thompson was second in last year’s championship and came back to try again.

Why he will win the title: Thompson knows the tracks, having raced on all of them except for Iowa Speedway and knows what it takes to win a title having lost last year’s championship to then-teammate Anthony Martin.

Why he won’t win the title: Thompson is racing for Exclusive Autosport, a new Canadian-based team in USF2000.  The last time a team other than Cape Motorsports won the USF2000 championship was 2010 and for the sake of all other drivers, we won’t use that reason any more. Racing for a new team has its risks, so Thompson will have to take more risks than usual to get to the front. With great risk comes great reward but also great consequences for failure.

Robert Megennis

Megennis drove for Team Pelfrey last year in USF2000 and started out as one of four drivers but ended up being the only one to finish the season with a full campaign.  He was the USF2000 Rookie of the Year last year.

Why he will win the title: Megennis was fast last year, earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award for passing the most cars on track last year. He knows how to get past people and will take advantage of that to finish well.

Why he won’t win the title:  Megennis wouldn’t have to pass so many cars if he started further up the grid. The New Yorker’s biggest weakness was qualifying, but with a new season that weakness could be eliminated.

Dakota Dickerson

Dickerson won a Skip Barber shootout and ran the Soul Red Mazda livery for Afterburner Autosport last year in what was a season of big improvement as his second half was much better than his first. For 2017 (and 2018) Dickerson signed with Newman Wachs Racing and will move up to Pro Mazda in his second season.

Why he will win the title: Dickerson is racing for a team that has had success in its first iteration and showed some great pace at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis. With a year already under his belt, Dickerson already knows the all the tracks except for Iowa, and will be more of a force to be reckoned with.

Why he won’t win the title: A team coming back from a seven year hiatus is a large unknown quantity, so expectations might not be what they once were years ago. 

Luke Gabin

Gabin drove for JAY Motorsports last season and despite having a cash-strapped budget, was able to finish very high in the standings. In 2017, he’ll be alongside Thompson and rookie Dev Gore, so it will be interesting to see where the team ends up.

Why he will win the title: Gabin does well under pressure and while he is under some big pressure this year, having more data to look at from teammates will help him get further up the grid.

Why he won’t win the title: The pressure Gabin endured might have gotten to him last year and it could get to him again if he’s not careful.  However, having been accustomed to it, he might be fine.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.

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