Northern Ireland's Wayne Boyd grabbed the lead on lap 1 of this evening's rain-delayed sixth round of the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda at the famed Milwaukee Mile oval, then held off a race-long challenge from polesitter Zach Veach to score an accomplished victory – the first for both himself and the Belardi Auto Racing team.
Boyd, 20, who qualified second in the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen-Mazda, made a poor initial getaway from the rolling start and fell momentarily to third place behind Veach and a fast-starting Petri Suvanto (No. 3 Viseko/Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who ensured the leaders were three-wide on the entrance to Turn 1. When the first two found their lines slightly compromised, Boyd was able to carry more momentum onto the back straightaway, then ducked to the inside of Veach as they swept into Turn 3.
“I started on the front row in P2 beside Zach," Boyd said. "He made a good start and I didn't. I really struggled and went into the first turn in third or fourth. I had to commit to the outside line and it really paid off. I went around the outside behind Zach and caught a good draft off of him going into [Turn] 3 and was able to get him on the inside. After that, I just put my head down and kept consistent because I knew Zach had a good pace under him as well. I put my head down, judged the traffic accordingly and it was a good race for us. I want to say a massive thanks to Belardi Auto Racing for all their help. They were a brand-new team this year and they got their first win. Also, a massive thanks to the Milwaukee Irish Fest for their continued support.”
The gap between the top two cars was rarely more than a few car lengths as Veach, driving the Andretti Autosport No. 7 Zakosi Data Backup entry, kept piling on the pressure. Boyd eked out a little breathing space when the leaders encountered some slower traffic at around two-thirds distance, but Veach again closed down the deficit. Their battle raged all the way to the finish before Boyd held on to become the fifth different winner from six races this season. The final margin between them after 50 laps was a mere 0.304sec.
"You can't argue with a second-place finish," Veach said. "My mechanic, Ron Weaver, always reminds me that points are the number one thing at the end of the day and I think we did a good job with what we had. We just have to keep the momentum going into the next race. I want to thank my team Andretti Autosport and Zakosi Data Backup and the Young Marines for being my new sponsor going into this event. I would also like to say Happy Father's Day to my dad because, without him, I wouldn't be where I am today.”
The final step on the podium was filled by Mexico City-based Colombian Juan Piedrahita, whose No. 19 Petrosur/GFK Motors/Montopharma/Colombia es passion/Red Line Oil, just edged out JDC Motorsports teammate Luke Ellery (No. 85 Melbourne IT/Luke-Ellery.com/Red Line Oil).
Piedrahita charged impressively from last on the grid after crashing in qualifying, while his Australian teammate Ellery came on strong in the closing stages as the pair crossed the finish line in side-by-side formation.
“First of all, I want to thank the JDC team for all of their effort," Piedrahita said. "Yesterday, we had a really tough day. After being fast, I put the car in the wall during qualifying. I knew the car was really good. In the race, I gave all I had. The first couple of laps were really good. My car was great in traffic and I was able to move up to P3. I was moving close to the front two but in the end my car was getting loose and I had to be delicate with the steering wheel. Third place is a good result and I am really happy.”
Petri Suvanto maintained his championship lead despite slipping to fifth at the finish ahead of Spencer Pigot (No. 8 MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Andretti Autosport).
Luca Forgeois, 16, from New York, N.Y., claimed his fifth National class victory of the year, finishing 10th overall in the No. 5 Café Noir/Pabst Racing Services Van Diemen.
“It was definitely an interesting race and it was great to gain more experience on the ovals since it is only my second time," Forgeois said. "I was quite fast and quite on the pace with qualifying compared to the Mazda-powered guys but found it a bit hard to replicate in the race and I just really never had the confidence to carry the speed through the turns the way that Wayne and Zach did. Another win is always great and I will learn from this experience and hopefully it will help me in the future.”
Contingency awards include the Tilton Hard Charger Award for the driver who gains the most positions which went to Juan Piedrahita. The PFC Award for the winning car owners was issued to JDC MotorSports and Pabst Racing Services in the National class. The Staubli Award, a random finisher award, was issued to Spencer Pigot.