MILLVILLE, N.J. – Nolan Siegel produced an exemplary performance Sunday afternoon at New Jersey Motorsports Park to win the third and final race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix tripleheader.
Siegel, 16, managed his wet-weather Cooper tires perfectly on a fast-drying race track to claim the first victory of his Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career for DEForce Racing. He became the second first-time USF2000 winner in a few hours following Myles Rowe’s triumphant drive earlier in the day for Force Indy.
Josh Green equaled his career-best finish in second for Turn 3 Motorsport, while Yuven Sundaramoorthy drove through the field impressively to finish third after electing to pit for dry-weather tires at the completion of the opening lap.
Grid positions were determined according to each driver’s second-fastest lap during qualifying this morning or fastest race lap from Race 2. Thus championship challenger Michael d’Orlando claimed his second Cooper Tires Pole Award of the day. Siegel started alongside on the front row with Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing), from Wilsonville, Ore., and Siegel’s DEForce Racing teammate and championship leader Kiko Porto, from Recife, Brazil, sharing row two.
With the track still damp from earlier rain, officials once again determined that all drivers should start on wet-weather tires. The start was clean, with d’Orlando and Siegel leading the way into Turn One, and once again several drivers – seven in total – chose to make stops for a change of tires after a solitary lap.
It was immediately apparent that slick Cooper tires were the faster option, but the drivers – particularly those at the front of the field – faced a tricky dilemma: continue on the slower wet tires or lose a considerable amount of time by ducking into the pits for a change to slicks.
Two of the Pabst drivers, Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz., who started sixth, and Sundaramoorthy, who had lined up 12th, were among the pit callers.
In the meantime d’Orlando continued to hold the lead, albeit under immense pressure from Siegel. Pierson held down third ahead of Green, who made up a couple of positions during the opening two laps.
On Lap 10, after several attempts to overtake had been rebuffed by the leader, Siegel finally managed to make a move around the outside line in Turn One. He immediately began to pull clear.
Green took advantage of a slight loss of momentum for d’Orlando by nipping through into second, but there was no catching Siegel, who romped away to victory and a sixth PFC Award of the year for David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
D’Orlando held onto third place until the final lap, when he was caught and passed by Sundaramoorthy, but fourth was enough to keep his title hopes alive after points leader Porto could manage no better than eighth. Sundaramoorthy’s fine effort, assisted by quick work by his team in the pits, was enough to earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Pierson held on for fifth ahead of rookie Christian Weir who also drove well after changing tires after the first lap.