Braden Eves claimed the USF2000 title thanks to a hard-fought victory in the deciding race at Laguna Seca which allowed him to overhaul a charging Hunter McElrea.
McElrea had a 12-point lead over Eves coming into the race but had to start from the rear of the 18-car field after a mechanical issue prevented him from setting a time in qualifying.
Eves meanwhile started from third, and already had the jump on Eduardo Barrichello at the green flag for second before he managed to get inside pole-sitter Colin Kaminsky exiting Turn 2, with Kaminsky forced wide on the gravel as a result.
Behind, contact for Eves’ Cape Motorsports team-mate Jak Crawford with Manuel Sulaiman caused a brief caution period, after which Sulaiman was immediately spun out of fourth place by contact with another Cape car, that of Darren Keane.
That promoted race one winner Christian Rasmussen up to fourth from 10th on the grid, and on lap eight of 20 the Dane followed Kaminsky past Barrichello for second place.
Up front, Eves’ advantage was only four tenths of a second, while rival McElrea had worked his way up to eighth place.
Rasmussen got past Kaminsky and attacked Eves on the outside into Turn 2 on lap 14. Eves fought back robustly and Rasmussen was forced wide on the exit, demoting him back behind Kaminsky.
Kaminsky was unable to pose a threat to Eves to help his Pabst Racing team-mate McElrea, and Rasmussen claimed second place back with contact at Turn 2 with less than four laps to go.
Rasmussen got close to Eves once more into the Corkscrew on the final lap but Eves held on. With McElrea seventh, the win was enough for Eves to claim the championship and associated scholarship to graduate to Indy Pro 2000.
Behind Kaminsky, Zach Holden finished fourth while Barrichello – on the weekend his father Rubens returned to single-seaters in the S5000 series in Australia – matched his best result of the year in fifth.