Rasmussen Dominates Opening USF2000 Rounds at Road America

 Christian Rasmussen began the new Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season in perfect style by dominating today’s USF2000 Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders. A race winner three times during his rookie campaign in 2019, the recently turned 20-year-old from Copenhagen, Denmark, more than lived up to his preseason expectations by taking a clean sweep of 65 points for the Jay Howard Driver Development team.

The Cape Motorsports pair of Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., and long-time friend Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., claimed a runner-up placing apiece. Top rookie Green followed up his second-place result in the opening race by taking third in Race Two, while second-generation Brazilian racer Eduardo Barrichello rounded out the podium in the opening race for locally based Pabst Racing.

Rasmussen began his perfect day by blitzing the field and claiming the Cooper Tires Pole Award by more than a full second in this morning’s lone qualifying session, held in wet but drying conditions. He followed up by making not the hint of an error during a scrappy opening 12-lap race which was interrupted by no fewer than three full-course cautions.

The drama began on the opening lap when second-year USF2000 drivers Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports), from Miami, Fla., and Nolan Siegel (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Palo Alto, Calif., came together in Turn Seven while running comfortably inside the top 10.

Rasmussen nailed his restart to perfection, while behind him Green forged past Californian Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) for second. But at the completion of just one more lap, Canadian rookie Nico Christodoulou embedded his DEForce Tatuus USF-17 into the gravel trap at Turn 14 to neutralize the field one more time.

Green kept the pressure on Rasmussen when the race resumed again with six laps in the books, although what appeared to be brewing into an exciting contest once again was brought to an early conclusion when Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) found the gravel trap at Turn Seven.

Rasmussen therefore took the checkered flag under caution, followed by Green and locally based Pabst Racing teammates Eduardo Barrichello, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Matt Round-Garrido, who had exchanged places a couple of times during the course of the race.

d’Orlando finished fifth ahead of Christian Bogle (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Covington, La., who moved up well from his 14th starting position. Even more impressive progress was made by Australian Cameron Shields (Legacy Autosport), who secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award after qualifying a lowly 17th. Brooks slipped back to eighth at the finish while fighting severe understeer.

Race Two also ended under caution when Canadian rookie Josh Pierson (Exclusive Autosport) encountered a problem in Turn One. But that didn’t detract from another fine effort by Rasmussen, who  once again started from the pole position by virtue of posting the fastest lap in the earlier race.

One slight slip from Rasmussen enabled Green to lead one lap in the early stages, but he quickly reasserted himself and extended his margin to more than seven seconds prior to the late caution.

Green, d’Orlando, Barrichello and Round-Garrido enjoyed an entertaining scrap for the minor placings before splitting themselves into a pair of intra-team battles. Green held second place for most of the way until d’Orlando grasped the position moments before the caution flags waved with two laps remaining. Behind, Round-Garrido narrowly held off Barrichello for fourth.

Shields finished sixth after an entertaining midfield battle, while Gold secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award after fighting his way all the way through to seventh after starting from the back of the field following his earlier incident.

Rasmussen’s day ended with a pair of PFC Awards for car owner Jay Howard and a handy championship lead over Green as the series heads next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for a triple-header on July 29/30.

Adam Sinclair