Finland's Petri Suvanto extended his lead in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda by virtue of a fine victory under the lights on Saturday night as part of the traditional “Night Before the 500" at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
But spare a thought for Luke Ellery. The young Australian rookie had missed the series' test at the beginning of the month due to budget constraints and consequently had never driven on an oval before Friday's opening practice session. You would never have known. Ellery qualified fourth in the Melbourne IT/Luke-Ellery.com/Red Line Oil/JDC Motorsports Van Diemen-Mazda and, after slipping to sixth at the start, he charged through the field in magnificent style, grasping the lead from pole-sitter Suvanto with a bold maneuver amid traffic on lap 28.
Ellery never managed to eke out much of a margin over Suvanto's Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car but was still running confidently in the lead on lap 47 when the slower car of Rodin Younessi, from Palm Beach, Fla., spun in Turn 3, then slid up the racetrack directly into Ellery's path. A distraught Ellery was out on the spot.
“I don't know how I'm going to explain to everyone back home what happened,” said Ellery. “We had the best car out there and I just got taken out. It's just so disappointing.”
Fortunately, both drivers escaped injury in the high-speed accident.
After a lengthy cleanup, 18-year-old Suvanto was challenged at the restart by Zach Veach's No. 7 Team Zakosi Data Backup/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen before edging clear to become this season's first repeat winner. Ellery's JDC Motorsports teammate, Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Petrosur/GFK Motors/Montopharma/Colombia es pasion/Red Line Oil Van Diemen) finished a strong third in the 69-lap race, which was delayed by more than two hours due to a heavy rain shower shortly before the scheduled 7:15 start time.
Piedrahita just held off a determined challenge from the Team MAZDSPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport Van Diemen of 2010 Skip Barber National Series Champion Spencer Pigot and the DHL/Belardi Auto Racing entry of former British Formula Ford Champion Wayne Boyd.
Fifteen-year-old Luca Forgeois, from New York, N.Y., sped to a dominant victory in the National Class – his fourth in five races this season – on his debut with the Pabst Racing Services team.
Suvanto now holds a 16-point advantage over Spencer Pigot as the series heads to another oval race for Round 5 at the famed Milwaukee Mile on June 19.