Jake Eidson capped a glorious return to form for Pabst Racing by claiming a convincing victory in this afternoon’s opening round of the Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series at NOLA Motorsports Park. The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing pair of Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin secured the other podium positions after a race-long battle.
Eidson, who finished third in the “regular season” championship in 2014, laid down a marker earlier in the afternoon by snatching the pole position with a best lap of 1:36.306 on the 2.75-mile, 16-turn road course situated just a few miles from downtown New Orleans. But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the 19-year-old from Memphis, Tenn. Eidson completed only a half-dozen laps in qualifying due to a clutch failure, which led to an all-hands-on-deck thrash by the Pabst team to complete a change before the 3:30 pm start time.
They did, and Eidson repaid the crew’s hard work by holding onto the lead at the start and stretching his advantage throughout the 19-lap race. He finally took the checkered flag a full 3.4422 seconds clear, winning at an average speed of 101.293 mph.
Fellow former Team USA Scholarship winner Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., qualified in third but managed to scramble past teammate Jamin on the opening lap and held off a determined challenge from the Frenchman to maintain second place.
Australian Jordan Lloyd was the first rookie finisher home in fourth following a fine USF2000 debut aboard the #94 John Cummiskey Racing Van Diemen-Mazda. Lloyd was briefly headed by one of the pre-event favorites, Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport), who charged from 14th to seventh on the first lap and made it as high as fourth following a disastrous qualifying session during which he was plagued by fuel pressure woes.
Lloyd’s teammate and fellow Australian, Anthony Martin, also found a way past Franzoni in the closing stages to secure fifth place. Another USF2000 debutant, Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, finished seventh for JDC MotorSports after a protracted battle with Russian Nikita Lastochkin (Team Pelfrey), Keyvan Andres Soori (ArmsUp Motorsports) and MAZDASPEED Scholarship winner Luke Gabin, from Perth, Australia, who survived a quick spin in his #82 Team Pelfrey car.
The USF2000 contenders will have two more races tomorrow. Race 2 will start at 10:15 am and Race 3 at 2:30 pm (all times local). Live timing and scoring will be available on the series website,www.usf2000.com.
Jake Eidson (#22 Pabst Racing): “I felt some pressure early on from the Cape cars behind me, but I knew we were pretty quick down the straights, so I had to keep cool and not make any mistakes. To pull out the first win of the season was the goal, so it’s a great feeling. We worked so hard last year to get to the top spot. Hopefully this will be the first of many!”
Aaron Telitz (#3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “It was a lot of fun. I made a mistake on lap five, trying to stay up with Jake and put pressure on him. Once I made that mistake, I fell back to Nico and pretty much had to fight to hold him off the rest of the race. It’s good to start the season on the podium, but there’s a long way to go.”
Nico Jamin (#2 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “We started second, which is good for the first qualifying of the season. Aaron and I did a good job with Jake today, but he had good pace. It’s very hard to pass here, so I just tried to put pressure on Aaron but he did too well. We’ll start up front again tomorrow and work on our setup for that.”