d’Orlando Earns Dramatic USF Pro 2000 Win at Mid-Ohio
 July 1, 2023| 
  • Series News
LEXINGTON, Ohio – After experiencing all manner of misfortune during the first half of the USF Pro 200After 0 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season, Michael d’Orlando now has earned two victories in his three most recent starts for Turn 3 Motorsport. Last year’s USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion led from flag to flag in today’s opening leg of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, which included a red-flag stoppage due to a short, sharp rain shower, and finally took the checkered flag 1.5096 seconds ahead of Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz.

Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., completed the podium for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports.

D’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., continued his run of form by securing his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season during qualifying on Friday, and comfortably translated that into the lead at the start.

Brazilian Kiko Porto, who preceded d’Orlando as a USF2000 champion in 2021, started second for DEForce Racing, but maintained his position only as far as the exit of Turn Four where he was unceremoniously bundled off the road and onto the grass by an aggressive Salvador de Alba (Exclusive Autosport), from Guadalajara, Mexico. Matters went from bad to worse for the unfortunate Porto as he inadvertently collected several other cars as he attempted to regain the racing surface at Turn Five. Cue a full-course caution.

D’Orlando once again displayed his superiority at the restart, while de Alba was obliged to serve a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility which relegated him to the back of the field.

Reece Ushijima (Jay Howard Driver Development) and fellow Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Denmark, who today celebrated his 19th birthday, led the chase at the restart, having vaulted, respectively, from sixth and eighth on the starting grid. But a three-wide tussle at the end of the back straightaway soon after the restart saw Ushijima shuffled back a couple of positions, which he maintained until catching the curb and spinning into the gravel trap at Turn Eight after 13 laps.

Rain began to fall during the ensuing caution period, and after two more laps the race was red-flagged and the entire field was instructed to fit wet-weather Cooper tires prior to the restart. With the 50-minute time slot closing rapidly, there was time for merely a two-lap dash to the finish. The storm clouds miraculously deposited only minimal precipitation, and on a damp track d’Orlando expertly negotiated the tricky conditions to cement his win.

The top five positions remained unchanged, with Miller just fending off Sweden’s Joel Granfors (Exclusive Autosport) for third and Bijoy Garg (DEForce Racing) from Atherton, Calif., claiming a season-best fifth-place finish.

German-based Albanian Lirim Zendeli (TJ Motorsport) made up a couple of positions in the closing laps to secure sixth ahead of Canada’s Louka St-Jean (Turn 3 Motorsport).

Championship leader Myles Rowe (Pabst Racing with Force Indy), from Brooklyn, N.Y., slipped from sixth to 11th, but still managed to maintain a healthy points advantage over Granfors.

Ricardo Escotto (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Mexico City, Mexico, picked up the Tilton Hard Charger Award by virtue of finishing ninth and advancing nine positions from the start.

Turn 3 Motorsport’s Peter Dempsey claimed the PFC Award as the winning car owner.

The second half of this weekend’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio is scheduled to go green later today at 5:25 p.m. EDT.

Provisional championship points after 10 of 18 rounds:
1. Myles Rowe, 219
2. Joel Granfors, 173
3. Francesco Pizzi, 167
4. Kiko Porto, 161
5. Salvador de Alba, 154
6. Jace Denmark, 149
7. Michael d’Orlando, 147
8. Jonathan Browne, 146
9. Jack William Miller, 138
10. Lirim Zendeli, 131

Michael d’Orlando (#1 USF Pro Championships/Focused Project Management-Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22): “The race was fun. Sometimes you have a battle with another driver and it’s super hectic but, to be fair, I was out front the whole time. I did get a bit anxious when the rain came. I went into Turn One with the new rain tires and didn’t know what to expect. I went in a tad too fast and corrected that but a real moment. It was a great race and the #1 Priority machine from Turn 3 Motorsport was absolutely insane. It has been fast all weekend and I am super proud to put it on top at Mid-Ohio. Huge thanks to all my supporters.”

Jace Denmark (#20 Metal Works Custom Fabrication-Pabst Racing Tatuus IP-22): “Starting eighth, it is really hard to pass at this track first of all, so I am really happy to come out with a podium. I’ve had quite a messy season this year, so getting back onto a podium step feels really good especially on my birthday. On the first start, I made it up to fourth or fifth. I avoided some crashes and made some good moves. I had a run on the restart and got up into third and then de Alba had a drive-through penalty. I was running fast laps and catching up to the leader and then it started raining. You see some drops on your visor and you start getting worried. The series made a good move to call everyone in for rain tires. We finished out the race with three laps to go and I was defending Jack for a long time and that’s it. It’s a good birthday so far.”

Jack William Miller (#40 Patterson Dental/Blue Marble Productions-Miller Vinatieri Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “We started P9 so getting the #40 Patterson Dental car up on the podium was a big feat, but we made it happen. I am actually pretty proud that when we pitted for rain tires, we were still in P3 so it showed that no external circumstances were the reason we were up there. We drove our way up six spots. I really think we could have won today but just not enough laps at the end. I was passing for P2 and then Granfors put on some pressure from behind, so I wasn’t able to do my magic and get up there. We still have another race and I am going to work at it again. We still need that win.”
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