LEEDS, Ala. – The first of two races which will comprise this weekend’s Mazda USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires at Barber Motorsports Park saw Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., speed to his second victory in just three starts for Cape Motorsports. But the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship winner was made to work hard for his laurels by equally impressive 14-year-old Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., who backed up his strong start to the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., with another fine performance today for Team Pelfrey.
Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing) and Frederick’s teammate Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., also remained in close contention throughout this afternoon’s 30-minute, 19-lap race run in warm, sunny conditions on the undulating 2.3-mile road course.
After posting the fastest lap in qualifying this morning to earn the pole position, Askew made a good jump to maintain his advantage at the green flag but was never able to shake off the attentions of Frederick, who remained seemingly glued to the leader’s gearbox. Any enhanced hopes that Frederick might have had for a maiden victory due to the effects of a mid-race full-course caution after Askew’s teammate, Ricky Donison, from Bangalore, India, slid into the gravel trap in Turn Three, were quickly dashed when Askew again nailed the restart to cement his position out in front.
Frederick remained close behind but had to settle for second place, just 0.2273 second in arrears at the checkered flag.
After sweeping both race victories at Barber one year ago, Canadian Parker Thompson finished fifth this time for the new Exclusive Autosport team, unable to take advantage of the late restart which had allowed him to negate a deficit of almost two seconds prior to the caution. Thompson had managed to find a way past fifth-fastest qualifier Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs Racing), from San Diego, Calif., at the start and maintained a narrow advantage until the end, with Guyana’s Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing) also in close attendance.
Norway’s Ayla Agren (Team Pelfrey), New Yorker Andre Castro (Newman Wachs Racing) and Australian Luke Gabin (Exclusive Autosport) completed the top 10 ahead of Englishman Toby Sowery, who made a solid debut for the new Benik team, and Devin Wojcik (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Syracuse, N.Y., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award for a fine drive to 12th after starting 20th.
Cape Motorsports earned another PFC Award as the winning team, while Frederick took home the Staubli Award.
Askew currently leads the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda after three races by a margin of 90 points to 69 over VeeKay. Frederick currently lies third on 62, followed by Thompson on 57 and Megennis on 53.
Oliver Askew, #2 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing (Cape Motorsports): “I trick myself into thinking it’s just a practice session, because if you think too much, that’s when mistakes happen – and I couldn’t have that with Kaylen right behind me. The Cape Motorsports guys are doing a great job and I’m learning every time I’m at the track. I really appreciate the opportunity from Mazda. This is everything I’ve ever hoped for. I’ve waited for this opportunity for several years so to be where I am right now is really special – hopefully we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. The goal is to win the championship and this is a huge opportunity to keep working toward that.”
Kaylen Frederick, #81 Pilot ONE Racing (Team Pelfrey): “It’s a cliché but I hope this is the first of many more to come! Hopefully we can get the pole tomorrow so I don’t have to work so hard to get around Oliver. I struggled at St. Pete since it was first street course. I had to learn a lot and improve a lot but the team definitely gave me a good car there and here as well. I took advantage of what I could today - the Cooper tires wore well so I could just keep my head down and focus. It took a while to get comfortable with all the high-speed corners and the compressions. It was hard for me to get the confidence to go into those corners with that much speed but it’s all clicked now.”
Rinus VeeKay, #21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total (Pabst Racing): “It’s good as a rookie to be in the top three in the championship after three races, so I’m happy with that. I didn’t have a great start but I think it was the best I could get out of my position. It is hard to pass here but I was one of the quickest cars so that bodes well for tomorrow. You have to be so much quicker to get past someone here because it’s so fast and flowing, which is the opposite of St. Pete which is more stopping and going. We’ll work on the car overnight and go for the win tomorrow.”