06-29-16 – Like so many in the racing community, I was thrilled to get back to Road America with the Mazda Road to Indy traveling circus. As has been chronicled by virtually every motorsports journalist as well as countless fans on social media, Road America is something special. I think we all knew going into Elkhart Lake that the USF2000 races were going to be very good. The track’s long straightaways and heavy braking zones play extremely well for the light two-liter machines. Combine the car’s dynamics with the unbridled aggression of young drivers on the first rung of the ladder system, and overtaking cannot be stopped. The two USF2000 races were among the best of the entire weekend.
Now that we’re a couple days from the completion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda events, it’s time to unveil my ‘Insider Star of the Race’ for the doubleheader.
For Race #1, my #Insider Star of the Race is Dakota Dickerson. The Afterburner Autosports driver was challenged both in the lead-up sessions for the race and in the 30-minute battle itself. Dakota was quick in Thursday practice, running in the top-10, but an oil pressure issue in the final session required an overnight engine change ahead of Friday morning qualifying. The trouble didn’t end there, as a broken half-shaft put him on pit lane before he could turn a time in qualifying. The Californian would need to start dead last in the field of 24.
While Dickerson sat stranded on pit lane as qualifying continued, I mentioned during the play-by-play that the fans were in for a treat on Saturday, and I was right. On the opening lap of the first race on Saturday morning, Dickerson charged through the field like a man possessed. His attack was incredible…aggressive but calculating. Dakota advanced 10 positions during the first half of the initial circuit and ended up with an impressive 12th place finish. Keep an eye on Dakota as we roll into the final three weekends of the year. Check out his in-car video from the start of Race #1 – you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
Ayla Agren is my #Insider Star of the Race for the second USF2000 main. Overall, the John Cummiskey Racing pilot had a tremendous weekend at Road America. Agren qualified eighth and finished there in Race #1. In the second race of the day, held on Saturday afternoon, she powered forward to finish fourth, her best result of the year, outgunning two of her teammates from last year – Garth Rickards and Luke Gabin. Now in her second season, Ayla is showing the speed that won her the 2014 F1600 Championship Series and if she can dial up the focused aggression, we may see her on the podium before the end of the season.
Follow Rob Howden on Twitter – @robhowden