LEXINGTON, Ohio – Christian Rasmussen is on a roll. Two weeks after claiming his first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship victory on the streets of Toronto, the 19-year-old from Copenhagen, Denmark, emerged triumphant again this afternoon at a warm and sunny Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Jay Howard Driver Development.
Polesitter Hunter McElrea, from Gold Coast, Australia, had to be content with second place, with Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., following him home in third.
A clean start saw McElrea initially hold his advantage over second-place qualifier Rasmussen, only for the Dane to pull off a bold out-braking maneuver in Turn Two to claim the lead. Behind, England’s Matt Round-Garrido, who had qualified sixth for BN Racing, also made an excellent start to emerge in third place by the completion of the opening lap.
By then the caution flags were already waving after USF2000 debutant Timmy Pagliuso, from Fishers, Ind., ran off the road and became stuck in the “China Beach” gravel at Turn Four.
The leading positions remained unchanged at the restart, but only until Turn Four, where Round-Garrido continued his spectacular early charge by rounding up McElrea in Turn Four and then securing second place by virtue of having the inside line over the top of the hill at Turn Five.
Rasmussen took full advantage of the in-fighting to extend his lead at the front of the pack. A series of consistently fast laps enabled him to stretch his lead with every lap before taking the checkered flag after 20 laps with a commanding lead of 9.5753 seconds over the best of his pursuers.
Having worked his way into second place, Round-Garrido was unable to pull away from McElrea. The Englishman defended staunchly for several laps but there was no stopping McElrea, who finally found a chink in the armor and reclaimed second place at Turn Six with just over three laps remaining.
Teammate Kaminsky also took advantage of Round-Garrido’s loss of momentum to sneak through into third. Close behind them at the finish line were two more Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17s in the hands of Brazilian Bruna Tomaselli and Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Oconomowoc, Wis., both of whom secured career-best results.
Despite adding a fourth driver to its roster for the first time this weekend, the usually dominant Cape Motorsports team earned a best finish of seventh, with newcomer Jak Crawford, 14, from Houston, Texas, narrowly edging out home state favorite and championship leader Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, and Darren Keane, from Boca Raton, Fla.
Zach Holden, from Greenfield, Ind., completed the top 10 for Legacy Autosport, while Reece Gold, 14, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, picked up the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 15th on the grid to 12th at the finish.
Rasmussen’s performance ensured a second PFC Award for former USF2000 and Indy Lights champion Jay Howard as the winning team owner. He will have an opportunity to add a third one tomorrow morning when Rasmussen once again will line up second behind polewinner Hunter McElrea following a separate qualifying session earlier this morning. Tomorrow’s 11th round of the 15-race championship will start at 11:05 a.m. EDT.
Christian Rasmussen (#6 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-17): “My ears were ringing at the checkered flag because the guys were yelling on the radio! I'm so happy to reward the guys for all their hard work. There was a little gap going into Turn Two and I took it, so I was able to get past Hunter and then keep that gap. It was a good race, I could just take care of myself. I could see that I was pulling away lap by lap. It’s something else when you have someone right on your gearbox. I had the fastest race lap and was very consistent. We are a new team to this series and I am new here as well, and I haven’t been to many of these tracks so we knew it would be hard at first. But we’ve managed to turn that around, so hopefully we can continue to build on this momentum.”
Hunter McElrea (#22 Mazda/Doric NZ/Miles Advisory Partners-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17): “The start didn’t go the way we planned it – I definitely need to improve that first lap for tomorrow, because it put us on the back foot for the entire race. It’s sort of the angel/devil on your shoulder right now. Obviously, I want to be pushing for wins, especially since we were quickest in practice and have double poles. Second is a great result but the race itself was pretty frustrating. I spent most of the race in the dirty air behind a slower car but once I was able to get by him, it was just about getting to the finish. There are plenty of positives from the day, closing the points gap. These were good points and we’re on pole again tomorrow, so we’ll be ready.”
Colin Kaminsky (#23 Slick Locks-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17): “That was a bit frustrating. The start was a little strange, because you had guys getting on the gas and guys who weren’t, so everything got jumbled by Turn One. Once we got into a rhythm, I was running fourth and watching my teammate trying to make the pass for second. I had a run going into Turn Four midway through the race but I wasn’t going to go three-wide and I backed out. Hunter was able to get by for second and I got by as well for third, though I think we had the pace to finish second. But these are good points with Keane and Eves behind us and starting third tomorrow will help, because track position is huge here. It’s been a super good effort by the entire team.”