The grid for the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda is starting to take shape.
Three drivers - one returnee and two rookies - announced plans to compete in the series beginning in March at St. Petersburg, Florida.
The returner is Kory Enders, who announced he would again race with De Force Racing in the No. 11 Tatuus USF17-Mazda. Enders, 20, made his series debut in 2017 finishing ninth in the championship with a best finish of fifth on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was also awarded the Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award for the USF2000 season.
“For 2018, my plan is to try my best in the USF2000 Series with De Force Racing,” the Houston-area resident said in a video released on his Twitter account.
Both rookies will be making the transition to race cars after standout careers in go-karting.
Oregon’s Kyle Dupell will join Team Pelfrey while Swedish teenager Rasmus Lindh will race with Pabst Racing.
“Kyle has shown his exceptional talent in the karting ranks, earning a ticket to the Grand Finals last year,” said and when he tested with us, his outright speed and potential were extremely evident. We are proud and excited to name him as a Team Pelfrey driver.”
Dupell will pilot the No. 81 Opal Creek Capital / Team Pelfrey Mazda.
“I’m excited to be driving with Team Pelfrey on the Mazda Road to Indy because I immediately felt comfortable the second we arrived at MSR Houston,” commented Dupell. “Jonny (Baker) and Jeremy (Grenier) took me under their wing and helped me make great strides during our test. I think we can do great things together with their support in 2018. Thank you to Pro Race Management for making everything possible this year.”
Lindh, 16, will make the move to single seaters after seeing much success in karting over the course of 10 years. Most recently, Lindh took fifth place in the CIK-FIA World Championship in the Senior category of OK.
“We had several very successful tests with Rasmus last fall and I’m confident his pace will be very impressive right from the start,” said team owner Augie Pabst. “This young man will be making regular visits to the podium in 2018!”
Indy car race winner Alex Barron joins USF2000 team as driver coach
When Swan-RJB Motorsports takes to the track this season, a familiar face will be a key part of helping the team’s drivers progress up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.
Alex Barron, who raced in both CART and IRL was a race-winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series, has joined the operation as driver coach for the collaboration between RJB Motorsports and Swan Motorsports
"I always enjoy working with Alex at the track,” said Mirl Swan, the team principal and lead engineer. “He has a vast amount of experience not only racing, but also in testing and development. Oftentimes, he can relay things to me about the car during a session before the driver even pits to be debriefed. It's not only an eye he has for what the driver is experiencing - oversteer, understeer, for example - but, it's what he sees dynamically about the cars. He can identify characteristics about the car itself, down to the smallest detail. He relays that information back to me instantly. It has a profound impact on our rate of car and driver development."
Barron will work closely with the team’s drivers and the engineering team to push for constant improvement and continued success.
"Alex is easy going, but fiercely competitive,” Swan continued. “He always has an absolute professional approach to the program, and in working with the drivers. We're looking forward to the 2018 race season."
Barron's vast experience at high levels of the sport will provide the team’s drivers with an invaluable education.
After a stellar and much-heralded karting career, he started his open wheel career in USF2000 and quickly advanced to win the KOOL Toyota Atlantic Championship in 1997. He would go on to drive for Indy car teams such as Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers, Dale Coyne Racing and Team Penske and winning Indy car events at Nashville Speedway with Blair Racing and at Michigan with Mo Nunn Racing.
“For me, working with the team, being involved with driver coaching and engineering has been very positive, as I have been learning about the car and working with the young drivers who have great talent,” Barron said. “Mirl and I have worked together in years’ past with great success. We have come from the same learning foundation, including karting and open-wheel racing with success over the years in Formula Atlantic. The team is working very hard in the offseason to get ready for the start of the year in St Petersburg. I think the USF2000 car is going to be a great stepping stone to move forward up the ladder into the higher levels of the Mazda Road to Indy. The cars are reliable and fast.”