BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Second-year driver Parker Thompson blitzed the field today in the first of two races which will comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. Thompson, 18, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, led throughout the 22-lap race en route to a long overdue maiden victory in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the first level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder.
Brazilian Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Thompson’s teammate, outside front row qualifier Anthony Martin, from Australia, completed the podium following an all-green 30-minute race.
Thompson, a former standout in the karting ranks, qualified his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Van Diemen-Mazda on the pole by a scant 0.0501 seconds, then made a perfect getaway to lead the 23-car field into Turn One.
Franzoni dived to the inside of Martin under braking to muscle his way through into second place in Turn Five on the opening lap. The Brazilian placed Thompson under a little bit of pressure for the first few laps before the young Canadian got into his stride, then inched away to an eventual winning margin of 4.2783 seconds.
Franzoni finished second for the second successive year at Barber, while Martin slipped back to a distant third, under intense pressure in the closing laps from fellow Australian Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports). Gabin edged alongside his rival once on the exit of Turn Five with a lap and a half remaining but was unable to complete the pass and had to settle for his third consecutive top-five finish this season.
Yet another Australian, series leader Jordan Lloyd, couldn’t maintain the form that saw him score a win and a second from the opening two races at St. Petersburg last month. He nevertheless finished fifth to extend his championship lead to 12 points, 75-63, over Pabst Racing teammate Yufeng Luo, who qualified a lowly 19th but gained some consolation by earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up five positions during the race.
Also impressive was 14-year-old Jordan Cane, from Bognor Regis, England, who finished sixth for Team Pelfrey. Russia’s Nikita Lastochkin (Cape Motorsports), Norway’s Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing), Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing) and Austin McCusker (Chastain Motorsports/Primus Racing) completed the top 10.
Race winner Thompson added the Staubli Award to his day’s haul, while winning team owners Dominic and Nicholas Cape claimed the PFC Award.
Parker Thompson (#2 Weyburn Energy-Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “I had a really good start and I needed that because if you leave the door open here, someone’s going to take it. I saw an orange car in my mirrors, which was Franzoni, so I knew I had to manage the gap. I pushed some, and got fastest lap, but I knew that if a late-race caution came out there were some aggressive drivers behind me that would take advantage. I had to make sure I still had enough Cooper Tire rubber under me and everything worked out perfectly. From my karting background, I love getting out there and making the pace and setting the field. When you’re out front and you can manage the race, especially here with limited passing lanes, you’re in control. We’re in this for the championship but my focus is to go out there tomorrow and run a clean race and not worry about anyone else.”