Canadian Parker Thompson scores two top-five finishes to advance in standings
BIRMINGHAM, AL (April 27, 2017) – Exclusive Autosport led the way at Barber Motorsports Park this past weekend among the teams that are new to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda for 2017. After debuting with a pole and a podium finish at the series opener in St. Petersburg, the team unloaded in Birmingham looking to challenge for more success. The squad’s lead driver Parker Thompson turned in an incredibly solid weekend with a pair of top-five finishes, overcoming set-up challenges to finish third in the second race of the doubleheader held on the venue’s 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course. Fellow series veteran Luke Gabin posted a best result of 10th in the opening race, while USF2000 freshman Dev Gore stepped up his game in the second event of the series schedule, and was embroiled in exciting battles throughout the weekend.
“Bringing home another podium finish and consistent points this past weekend are definitely something to be proud of,” offered Michael Duncalfe, Exclusive Autosport CEO. “However, as a team, we were definitely wanting more out of the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. I really want to thank our dedicated crew and the great group of drivers we have for working so incredibly hard on and off the track all weekend. We are going to continue the hard work to improve as a team heading into Indianapolis to have the Exclusive Autosport fleet up closer to the top of the time sheets each session.”
New to the series and new to the majority of the tracks on the USF2000, the Exclusive Autosport engineering staff worked closely with their drivers to dial in their cars through the Thursday test and practice session, and in fact, all weekend long. In Friday morning qualifying for the opening race later that afternoon, Thompson benefitted from improved balance to close the gap on the leaders as he timed in sixth. Gabin sat 11th on the time sheet, while Gore was 19th, equaling his best qualifying run of the year.
Thompson had a strong start and settled into the sixth position to begin Race 1, and was then able to get past Dakota Dickerson for fifth in the early going. The Canadian would hold that spot to the checkered flag, posting his third straight top-five finish of the year. Gabin settled into a top-10 position early on and held the spot after a last-race caution period, finishing 10th in the final tally. Gore had the most excitement of the trio, running amidst a thrilling fight just outside the top-15. The level of competition in this year’s USF2000 is extremely high and this particular battle was highly intense, which will pay dividends in Dev’s rapid development. Gore ended the day in 18th.
After an intensive post-race debrief and strategy session, the team came out of the gate with more pace in Saturday morning qualifying. Parker closed the gap even further on the lead duo to set the third fastest time of the session, putting himself on the inside of row two for the afternoon race. Gabin slipped a little and was 13th, while Gore found himself mired in slower traffic during his sticker tire run late in the session, and was not able to get in a flyer.
Race 2 set up for a challenge for all three Exclusive Autosport drivers, but the race got off to a chaotic start with multi-car incidents in multiple corners. The team’s pilots avoided the carnage, and after a lengthy full course caution period, Thompson began his charge for another podium finish. At the end of the 17-lap race, Parker has earned a third place finish, coming home just ahead of Rinus VeeKay, moving him to fourth overall in the championship standings on the strength of four-straight top-five finishes. Gabin had a late-race off-track excursion and lost a couple of spots to finish 13th, while Gore turned in a strong performance to advance to 17th from the very tail of the field.
The next event on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will take the series to the ‘Racing Capital of the World’. Rounds Five and Six will be held as part of the INDYCAR Grand Pix on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11-13.
DRIVER PERFORMANCE / QUOTES
COOPER TIRES USF2000 CHAMPIONSHIP POWERED BY MAZDA
ROUND #2 – APRIL 21-23, 2017
BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK – BIRMINGHAM, AL
PARKER THOMPSON – USF2000 #90
Qualifying 1: 6th – 1:24.0735
Qualifying 2: 3rd – 1:23.6526
Race 1: 5th
Race 2: 3rd
Driver Quote: “I am very proud of the whole Openhwy #90 Exclusive Autosport crew this weekend! We battled through adversity as a new team at the very challenging Barber Motorsports Park. It’s no secret that we didn’t roll off the truck the way we intended to. But how this team pulled together, ultimately coming home on the podium in the final race, just goes to show how well this group executes a race weekend! All in all, it was a solid weekend for the championship and the big picture. It’s time to put in work these next two weeks to prepare for the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend at Indianapolis!