Max Garcia celebrates his win at the Indy Road Course. (Gavin Baker Photography)

Garcia Wins, Extends USF2000 Points Lead At Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship leader Max Garcia stretched his points advantage with a somewhat fortuitous victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. 

The youngster from Coconut Grove, Fla., took the lead on the final lap following a dramatic accident at turn one involving erstwhile leaders Evan Cooley and Nico Christodoulou to secure his fourth win of the season for defending champion team Pabst Racing.

Yesterday’s winner Max Taylor inherited second place with Indianapolis native Elliot Cox rounding out the podium in his hometown race for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development.

A dramatic 15-lap race which included two full-course cautions and eventually finished under yellow due to the final-lap crash began with impressive debutant Cooley leading the field that was set according to each driver’s second-best lap during the lone qualifying session on Friday. Cooley’s was fast enough to claim his second Continental Tire Pole Award.

Cooley maintained his lead at the start and even pulled out an appreciable advantage on the opening lap as the rest of the field squabbled in his mirrors, only for it to be negated by an early incident further down the field.

Christodoulou, who had made a fine jump from fifth on the grid, overtook Cooley soon after the restart, but was unable to pull away. Instead, Cooley’s pressure paid off as he regained the lead into turn one on lap 12. The leading pair continued to battle hard as the race drew toward its conclusion.

Cooley still held the point as they began their final lap, whereupon Christodoulou drafted to the outside of his rival as they approached turn one at the fastest part of the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. Both drivers were on the limit as they turned into the right-handed corner. Christodoulou boldly stuck to his outside line, but Cooley wasn’t about to give up easily. Unfortunately, after Cooley locked up his front brakes slightly as they approached the apex, contact was made which sent Christodoulou’s car tumbling into the grass at the exit.

Garcia, who had been close behind, gratefully ducked through to take the win ahead of Taylor who had also been part of the titanic battle for the lead.

Cox also profited to finish third, finally scoring a result commensurate with his speed this season. Behind, Cooley recovered sufficiently to cross the line in fourth, but was later penalized by Race Control for his part in the incident which relegated him to 15th in the final results.

Ayrton Houk impressed while rising from 13th on the grid to fourth for DC Autosport, securing his best result to date in front of a large group of supporters, while last year’s USF Juniors champion Nicolas Giaffone also recorded his best finish in fifth.