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Denmark wins USF2000 opener after Nepveu and Rowe crash on last lap

by Ida Wood

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Jace Denmark inherited victory in the USF2000 opener in St. Petersburg after the top two collided just in front of him on the final lap.

DEForce Racing’s Thomas Nepveu started on pole, ahead of Pabst Racing’s Denmark, his own team-mate Bijoy Garg and Denmark’s team-mate Myles Rowe.

Exclusive Autosport driver Billy Frazer jumped past three of them to get into third on lap one behind Nepveu and Denmark, with Rowe settling into fourth.

The top two ran close together through the first half of the 20-lap race, while Rowe had the pace to set fastest lap but couldn’t get past Frazer until lap 11.

With clean air he then tracked down the leaders, who were often only a few tenths apart at the end of each lap, and got onto their tail with two laps to go.

He passed his team-mate Denmark for second on the penultimate lap, then dived down the inside of leader Nepveu at turn one at the final opportunity. Despite there being less grip on the inside it was Nepveu who locked up, but then Rowe ran too deep and they exited the corner side-by-side.

Going through the tightening esses between turns two and three, Denmark was back onto the gearbox of Rowe, who was on the left of Nepveu. As Nepveu drifted left to follow the track, his rear-left wheel made contact with Rowe’s front-right and he was speared into the barriers. Two of his wheels were ripped off straight away, and as Rowe hit the barriers his car also suffered heavy damage.

Denmark made contact with one of the wings that was now on the track, but otherwise got through unscatched to take the lead seconds before the race was red flagged. However rather than put the results back a lap, drivers were able to run to the chequered flag and so he took victory ahead of Frazer and Garg who had dropped places at the start.

Michael d’Orlando finished fourth after sustained pressure from Simon Sikes and Trey Burke.

Race results (20 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 24m33.6965s
2 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport +0.8051s
3 Bijoy Garg DEForce Racing +1.3243s
4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports +1.9173s
5 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport +3.4197s
6 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports +4.6601s
7 Spike Kohlbecker Turn 3 w/ Ignite Autosport +11.0065s
8 Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports +11.6497s
9 Dylan Christie DEForce Racing +14.9099s
10 Christian Weir Turn 3 Motorsport +15.7431s
11 Jacob Douglas Exclusive Autosport +16.3081s
12 Jackson Lee Cape Motorsports +19.5709s
13 Viktor Andersson Velocity Racing Development +21.1788s
14 Frederik Lund JHDD +22.8786s
15 Nicky Hays Cape Motorsports +27.0407s
16 Yeoroo Lee JHDD +31.7547s
17 Thomas Nepveu DEForce Racing +1 lap
18 Myles Rowe Pabst Racing +1 lap
19 Jorge Garciarce JHDD +2 laps
Fastest lap: Rowe, 1m13.1838s