A large portion of the crowd stayed on after this afternoon's IZOD IndyCar Series season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg to watch Petri Suvanto become the fourth different winner in as many rounds of the hotly contested Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda.
The highly rated 18-year-old from Nurmo, Finland, driving for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, took full advantage of the pole position he gained by virtue of posting the fastest race lap in yesterday's race. He maintained the lead at the start, then held off closest rival Spencer Pigot after a mid-race, full-course caution to score a fine victory on the unforgiving 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit.
“Getting a win is all I could hope for and hopefully we can carry the momentum for the remainder of the season and try to stay on top in the hunt for the championship. This track is amazing and actually I am planning on maybe moving to St. Pete so this was like my home race especially since the team is based here. It is a special place for me obviously.”
Northern Ireland's Wayne Boyd made an impressive jump at the start, vaulting from fourth on the grid to second in his No. 4 DHL/Belardi Auto Racing entry, but didn't quite have the pace to fend off yesterday's winner, Pigot, in the No. 8 Team MAZDSPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen.
Pigot, 17, from Windermere, Fla., stalked Boyd through the first half of the 21-lap race, then pounced on the inside under braking for Turn 1 on lap 10 to move into second place. Pigot challenged Suvanto for the lead at the restart following a full-course caution – caused by an incident between Tonis Kasemets and Shannon McIntosh – but the Finn just held his ground. Suvanto's victory, hot on the heels of three podium finishes already this season, allowed him to grasp the championship lead by 106 points to 104 over Pigot.
Zach Veach, 16, from Stockdale, Ohio, finished a close fourth in the No. 7 Team Zakosi Backup/Andretti Autosport car, maintaining his third place in the championship with 88 points.
Frenchman Vincent Beltoise (No. 32 Pole Mecanique Ales en Cevennes/INSA de Lyon/Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Van Diemen) scored his best result of the season thus far, emerging narrowly ahead of Timmy Megenbier (No. 17 Sick Tea/Rahal Foods/Caputo/Wiscon Corp.), Matthew Di Leo (No. 33 Res Precast/Brian Stewart Racing) and JDC MotorSports duo Luke Ellery and Juan Piedrahita after a race-long battle for fifth.
For the second day running, Luca Forgeois won the National class aboard the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports/Café Noir Van Diemen The 15-year-old from New York City, N.Y., now leads by 84 points to 73 over defending National champion Ardie Greenamyer from Louisville, Ky.