Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Hits the Track in Sonoma
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda effectively bridges the gap between amateur and professional racing, and this weekend will conclude an intensely competitive season by crowing a champion who will earn a MAZDASPEED Scholarship to move up to the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2015.
USF2000 can trace its roots all the way back to England in 1974. It was introduced originally as Formula Ford 2000 and was intended to capitalize on the runaway success of Formula Ford (1600), which had been providing a low-cost entry-level training ground since 1967. Both categories quickly found their way to North America, although it wasn't until 1990 that F2000 gained championship status in the U.S. with a West Coast-based series run under USAC sanction. Two years later, Dan Andersen and Mike Foschi took over the series and expanded operations into a full national championship for the first time.
A host of top-line drivers have developed their talents in F2000, including Jimmy Vasser, Greg Moore, Buddy Rice, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon to name but a few. The series fell by the wayside at the conclusion of the 2006 season but was resurrected - again by Andersen - in 2010 and now plays a crucial role as the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy which provides a succession of scholarship opportunities for drivers to progress all the way from karting to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
An intriguing mix of veterans and rookies will vie for top honors this weekend, with as many as 65 points up for grabs to whomever can win both 30-minute races. Among them will be Frenchman Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), Norway's Henrik Furuseth (JAY Motorsports), and Americans RC Enerson, who won three of the first four races this year for Team E Racing, and Peter Portante (ArmsUp Motorsports). All four earned podium finishes in 2013 and have their sights firmly set follow in the footsteps of Canadian Scott Hargrove by winning the USF2000 crown and moving on to Pro Mazda.
Other notable series veterans include American teenagers Austin Cindric (Pabst Racing), the son of Penske Racing President Tim Cindric, and Clark Toppe (JDC MotorSports), Canadian Daniel Burkett (Belardi Auto Racing), and Dutchman Jeroen Slaghekke (Afterburner Autosport), all of whom have been among the front-runners this year.
First-year stand-outs include Jake Eidson, a proven winner with no fewer than three Skip Barber championships and last year's F1600 Championship Series title already under his belt. Eidson drives for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, which has won the past three USF2000 crowns, but faces stiff opposition from former Skip Barber and F1600 rivals Adrian Starrantino (JAY Motorsports) and Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports), who, respectively, scored impressive maiden wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Lucas Oil Raceway oval; former karting standout Will Owen, who took advantage of tricky wet-dry conditions to win for Pabst Racing at Indianapolis; Frenchman Nico Jamin (Belardi Auto Racing); and second-generation racer Colton Herta (JAY Motorsports), whose prodigious pace belies the fact he is the youngest driver in the field at just 14.