By Road to Indy
TORONTO, Ont., Canada – There’s no stopping Kyle Kirkwood. The runaway championship leader started only third for this morning’s eighth round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but a well-executed pass on polesitter Dakota Dickerson at the first corner vaulted his Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17 into the lead at the first corner and he never looked back.
Kirkwood, 19, from Jupiter, Fla., was never able to relax, with Dickerson’s ArmsUp Motorsports car following just a few car lengths in arrears. He was nevertheless able to hold on for his fifth consecutive victory – and ensure the sixth PFC Award of the season for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape as the winning owners – to extend his championship advantage to a whopping 114 points over Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., who finished third for Pabst Racing.
Today’s first of two races which comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products began with Dickerson, from San Diego, on the pole for the first time in his career due to the two drivers who had qualified fractionally faster, Kirkwood and Frederick, being forced to forfeit their best laps after being adjudged not to have slowed sufficiently for a caution flag.
Dickerson tried his best to defend his position away from the start, but Kirkwood glimpsed the slimmest of gaps on the inside under braking and boldly made his move. It was judged to perfection. Dickerson had little option but to tuck into second, followed by the Pabst pair of Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, who had started fourth, and outside front row starter Frederick.
After an early full-course caution due to Mexico’s Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing) and Floridian Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) colliding in Turn Four while disputing fifth position, Kirkwood quickly established himself at the front, albeit with Dickerson hot on his heels. Frederick managed to fight his way past Lindh in Turn Five soon after the restart, whereupon the top four soon began to edge clear of Ireland’s Keith Donegan (BN Racing) in fifth.
The leading quartet exchanged fastest race laps on a regular basis, with Kirkwood clinging onto his advantage. Try as he did, Dickerson was unable to find a chink in the leader’s armor and had to settle for second. The pair were separated by just 0.3613 second at the checkered flag.
Frederick barely managed to stay ahead of rookie Lindh, who gained the consolation of a new race lap record of 1:11.1234, an average speed of 90.401 mph, on his way to fourth place.
Donegan and Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Georgetown, Guyana, finished a relatively lonely fifth and sixth ahead of Japanese-born Brazilian Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after a magnificent charge from 17th on the grid following a mistake during qualifying. He was followed by Singaporean teammate Danial Frost and Brazilian Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing), who also charged from the back after a crash in qualifying.
A second qualifying session this morning saw Frederick post the fastest time at a new record 1:10.7699 (90.852 mph) to earn the pole position for tomorrow’s ninth round of the 14-race season which will start at 9:45 a.m. ET.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “We started third but I timed the start perfectly and I was on Dakota’s gearbox the entire way into Turn One. He left the door open just a little bit and I was able to take it. We had one caution but I kept that gap and honestly, it couldn’t have gone any better. Now that we have a big lead I can charge after wins as hard as I can. If we have a mishap, we don’t have to worry as much and it’s really nice to have that comfort. I look back on my first win at St. Pete and think of how much knowledge the Mazda Road to Indy has given me. My driving is so much better than it was at St. Pete – I remember feeling as though I was right on top of the walls, but here, I’m really pushing and I’m driving really well. This has been a huge year for me and I’m really happy to be in this position.”
Dakota Dickerson (#9 ArmsUp Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “We had a pretty good start but Kyle made a good move up the inside of Turn One. I tried on the outside of Turn Three but couldn’t make it stick. I tried to keep the pressure on to a force a mistake, but Kyle being Kyle, he didn’t. But we finished P2 and for that, I’m happy. We didn’t have the success we were looking for at Road America but I’m getting reacclimated to the car – and I’m really happy to be back in the USF2000 Championship.”
Kaylen Frederick (#24 Pilot ONE Racing-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): ““Everyone just slotted in behind Dakota at the start so I was stuck on the outside. I got hit and that put me off a bit, but I was able to catch back up to Rasmus. I got by him and after that, the whole race was just me defending third position. I lost time to the leaders so I couldn’t catch up until the last few laps. It wasn’t the best day today but I’m on pole tomorrow so I’m hoping to make something happen there.”