INDIANAPOLIS – Yuven Sundaramoorthy is taking full advantage of his three years of experience in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder.
After claiming his first victory in the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park last month, Sundaramoorthy enjoyed a sensational Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course to win the first two legs of the USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis presented by Cooper Tires triple-header for Pabst Racing.
He was chased home Friday morning by Cape Motorsports’ Michael d’Orlando, who drove a spectacular race to climb up from 12th on the grid, and polesitter Christian Brooks. A few hours later, Sundaramoorthy led throughout a second all-green 15-lap race to win from Pabst Racing teammate Josh Pierson and Kiko Porto.
“It’s so fun to race here! This is the same podium where I won my first car race four years ago, so it feels great to take two wins today,” said Sundaramoorthy. “For both races, all I kept saying to myself for the last few laps was ‘don’t throw it away!’ It’s hard being out in front like that – when I’m leading, I’m more nervous. When I’m second, I have someone to chase and I’m focusing forward. When you’re leading, you have to know how much to push without going over the edge.
“In race one, I knew I was faster than the two guys in front of me but I didn’t want to do anything too rash too early, so I waited for them to make a mistake. I thought I blew it all, going off into the run-off, but I was able to get back in it. I had so much help from my spotter (driver coach Bob Perona) coaching me through it and keeping me calm. In the end, it worked out!
“This one is for Hank, the Pabst dog. I hope he’s watching us from doggie heaven.”
After securing his second Cooper Tires Pole Award during qualifying yesterday, championship leader Brooks took off into the lead at the start of Friday morning’s opening 15-lap race, but it was immediately apparent that he would be unable to pull away from a snarling pack that was snapping at his heels.
The Pabst pair of Pierson and Sundaramoorthy, who had qualified second and third, both comfortably within a tenth of a second of the polesitter, clearly appeared to have a little more speed on the long front straightaway in race configuration.
Brooks was forced to spend much of his time checking his mirrors for attacks instead of being able to focus on the clear track ahead of him, which in turn allowed Josh Green and Cape Motorsports teammate Spike Kohlbecker, as well as leading rookie Thomas Nepveu, to join the lead battle. They in turn were eventually joined by a third Cape car in the hands of d’Orlando, who was making up ground after a disappointing qualifying session.
Sundaramoorthy used his experience to nip ahead of teammate Pierson at turn one before setting his attention on Brooks, who was striving to hold onto his lead, but the task was hopeless. On lap 11, Sundaramoorthy drafted cleanly around Brooks and left his braking as late as possible into turn one to snatch the advantage. The USF2000 veteran then eased clear in the closing stages to score his second win of the season.
Brooks looked set to hold onto second until the final lap when d’Orlando capped a brilliant performance by out-braking Brooks into turn seven to wrest away second place. Brooks and Pierson followed him across the line, with Green completing the top five.
As impressive as d’Orlando’s drive from 12th on the grid to second, even that wasn’t enough to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award. Instead, it went to Exclusive Autosport’s Grant Palmer, who progressed from 25th on the grid to 11th during a cleanly fought, all-green race.
Friday afternoon’s race was altogether less eventful, at least for Sundaramoorthy, who earned the Cooper Tires Pole Award by virtue of having posted the fastest second lap in the lone qualifying session from among the intensely competitive 26-car field.
Sundaramoorthy put his head down from the start, and even though Pierson loomed large in his mirrors after finding a way past Brooks on the opening lap, he made no mistakes to score another accomplished victory. He also ensured a second PFC Award of the day for team owner Augie Pabst.
Pierson continued his fine form by finishing second, while Porto moved up from sixth on the grid to displace Brooks from the final podium position with three laps remaining.
Brooks also slipped behind d’Orlando, who posted another impressive charge from 11th on the grid to maintain his own championship hopes.
New Zealander Peter Vodanovich took home the second Tilton Hard Charger Award after progressing from 24th on the grid to 15th at the finish.