LEXINGTON, Ohio – Anthony Martin led from flag to flag to win today’s 12th round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the first of three races that will comprise this weekend’s Allied Building Products USF2000 Grand Prix of Ohio. The gifted 21-year-old Australian’s fifth win of the season vaulted him past Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Parker Thompson in the chase for a Mazda scholarship to progress onto the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2017 after the Canadian fell out of second place due to a punctured front tire.
Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, continued his excellent run of form to finish second for ArmsUp Motorsports, while Luke Gabin, from Perth, Australia, completed the podium for JAY Motorsports.
Martin made an exemplary start from pole position to take the early initiative in hot, humid conditions at the scenic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Thompson slotted into second place ahead of Franzoni, who started fourth but overtook Garth Rickards in Turn One before also displacing third-place qualifier Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport) at Turn Two.
The caution flags waved midway around the second lap after Robert Megennis’ Team Pelfrey Van Diemen-Mazda ground to a halt on the track due to an electrical relay failure. Martin again held off Thompson at the restart, while an aggressive move by Dickerson, who pulled alongside Franzoni on the run toward Turn One, failed to pay off as the Brazilian clung onto his advantage around the outside. Dickerson duly lost some momentum at the exit which allowed Gabin to draw alongside going uphill toward the Keyhole. A close-following Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing) also took the opportunity to demote Dickerson one more position with a late-braking maneuver into Turn Two.
Even though Martin pulled out a 1.5-second margin almost immediately, Thompson managed to reduce the deficit a little before unfortunately collecting a piece of debris which punctured his right-front tire and forced him into the pits for a replacement. He resumed a lap down in 17th.
Franzoni was thereby promoted to second, albeit almost four seconds adrift of Martin, with Gabin, Lloyd and Dickerson rounding out the top five.
Three laps later, the caution flags waved again after Yufeng Luo (Pabst Racing) became stranded in Turn Eight following an incident with Austin McCusker (Chastain Motorsports/Primus Racing) while battling for 10th. With the 30-minute time limit expired, the race ended under yellow with the top five positions unchanged.
The Cape brothers, Dominic and Nicholas, earned their ninth PFC Award of the season as the winning car owners, while Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing) claimed the Staubli Award following his seventh-place finish. Michai Stephens (RJB Motorsports) was the Tilton Hard Charger after rising from 19th on the grid to 12th.
Despite beginning the weekend with a 20-point deficit in the championship standings, Martin now leads Thompson by nine points with two races remaining this weekend – one which starts tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:15 pm and another on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
Anthony Martin (#8 Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “It just goes to show that it can all change in one race. There’s so much at stake and we all know that, but you have to put those emotions out of your head and race as hard as you can. I saw that Parker wasn’t behind me anymore and I was confused at first, wondering where he’d gone. But at the back of my mind I knew it would be good for the championship so I tried to take it a little bit easier and bring the car home. The last safety car was a little bit frightening, because I know how great Victor is on restarts but thankfully I was able to come home with the win. All I can do is try to get every point I can, so I was pushing hard, trying to get fastest lap, because I know it’s going to go down to the wire. There’s so much pressure but I haven’t let it get to me – and that gives me the confidence to know that I can do it.”
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