St. Petersburg, Fla. - Second-year Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda driver Jake Eidson this morning scored a flawless victory for Pabst Racing in the opening round of the season in the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Eidson, 19, from Littleton, Colo., who finished third in the 2014 title-chase, secured the pole during an early morning qualifying session and led throughout the 18-lap, half-hour race which was interrupted by two caution periods.
The St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team completed the podium with Birchwood, Wis.'s Aaron Telitz finishing second ahead of teammate Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France.
Eidson took control at the start, holding a tight line into Turn One to keep Telitz in his wake. Behind, a concertina effect saw Canadian rookie Parker Thompson (JDC MotorSports), who started ninth, leaving his braking a little too late and making contact with both Jamin, who had started third, and Australian Jordan Lloyd (John Cummiskey Racing). Lloyd rejoined at the tail of the field, but countryman Luke Gabin (Team Pelfrey) and Germany's Keyvan Andres Soori (ArmsUp Motorsports) weren't so fortunate, their days ending immediately after also being involved in the incident which brought out the yellow flags.
After a lengthy cleanup, Eidson continued to run up front, under pressure from Telitz and Aussie Anthony Martin (John Cummiskey Racing), who then braked too deep at Turn One and promptly lost third place to the recovering Jamin.
Another brief caution after Augie Lerch (JAY Motorsports) crashed heavily in Turn Two set up a four-lap dash to the checkered flags, and once again Eidson was able to maintain his advantage over Telitz. Jamin rounded out the podium in third, followed by Martin, while Chinese rookie Yufeng Luo (Pabst Racing) just managed to hold off a determined challenge from Victor Franzoni, who had started 17th and last after his qualifying time had been erased due to a procedural error by his Afterburner Autosport team.
Franzoni's drive earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award for gaining 11 positions during the race, as well as the Replay XD Move of the Race Award for his pass on Garth Rickards (Team Pelfrey) for sixth place on Lap 9. Other contingency awards included the PFC Award to the winning car owner, Augie Pabst, and the Staubli Award to race winner Eidson.
The green flag for Race 2 of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place tomorrow at 8:55 am ET.