Porto Near Perfect Today in Portland USF Pro 2000
 September 2, 2023| 
  • Series News
BAnner

PORTLAND, Ore. – Kiko Porto this evening kept alive his slender hopes of snatching the 2023 USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires title with a fine drive in the first of three races that will comprise this weekend’s VP Racing Fuels Grand Prix of Portland. Porto, the 2021 USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion, from Recife, Brazil, kept his head while others around him perhaps did not as he sped to his second victory in the last three races.

Right behind him in second place, however, was the man who already has one hand on the championship trophy, Pabst Racing with Force Indy’s Myles Rowe. The 22-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., now holds a commanding 52-point lead with a maximum of 66 points on the table from this weekend’s final two races of the season.

Porto’s DEForce Racing teammate Bijoy Garg, from Atherton, Calif., secured his first ever podium finish with third.

Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., looked like being the man to beat in today’s 16th race of the season. He was second fastest in official practice this morning, then went one better for Turn 3 Motorsport in qualifying by clinching his fourth Cooper Tires Pole Award.

Unfortunately, d’Orlando’s rollercoaster ride this year continued in a familiar vein. He was able to retain the lead following chaos at the first corner, despite opting to take to the escape road at the notorious Festival Curves chicane. Behind him there was carnage as virtually the entire field attempted to occupy the same piece of asphalt. Seven cars were eliminated from the running.

Following a red-flag stoppage to reset the field, d’Orlando once again took to the escape road. This time both he and German-Albanian Lirim Zendeli, who had risen from sixth on the grid to second for TJ Speed Motorsports, incurred penalties which dropped them to the back of the field.

The major beneficiary was Porto, who had qualified third and was one of the few to take a conventional line at the initial start. The Brazilian adroitly avoided all the carnage and emerged in the lead ahead of Rowe, who had started fifth and also kept his head at the start.

The pair quickly distanced themselves from the pack. Rowe on several occasions looked poised to make a challenge, but instead wisely maintained his position to inch one step closer to the championship which would earn him a Discount Tire Driver Development Scholarship valued at $664,500 to graduate to INDY NXT by Firestone in 2024.

Garg, who equaled his career-best starting position in fourth, held third place for virtually the entirety of the 30-lap race, finishing clear of Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz.

Louka St-Jean (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Lorraine, Que., Canada, also secured a career-best finish in fifth, followed by Italy’s Francesco Pizzi (TJ Speed Motorsports), and Pabst Racing’s Jordan Missig, from Channahon, Ill., who picked up the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 19th and last on the grid.

Mexico’s Salvador de Alba (Exclusive Autosport) crossed the line in sixth but later fell to 10th after being assessed a 30-second penalty for avoidable contact.

DEForce Racing’s Ernesto and David Martinez earned another PFC Award and will have two more opportunities to add to their tally in Rounds 17, which will start tomorrow at 3:10 p.m. PDT and the season finale at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Provisional championship points after 16 of 18 rounds:
1. Myles Rowe, 358
2. Kiko Porto, 306
3. Salvador de Alba, 256
4. Michael d’Orlando, 238
5. Lirim Zendeli, 236
6. Francesco Pizzi, 233
7. Jace Denmark, 218
8. Joel Granfors, 206
9. Jonathan Browne, 196
10. Jack William Miller, 192

Kiko Porto (#12 Banco Daycoval/Petromega-DEForce Racing Tatuus IP-22): “At the start, I just saw a bunch of cars going straight. It was kind of confusing but the team helped me to understand what was going on. Myles put me in the situation where I need to win races so I am trying to extract the maximum possible. He did a great job finishing second which meant a lot of points for him in the championship, but it is not over yet. I am going to fight with everything I have.”

Myles Rowe (#99 Penske Entertainment-Pabst Racing with Force Indy Tatuus IP-22): “The race was great for us honestly. You always want more when you finish second but, considering the circumstances and with us being ahead in the title fight, it was exactly what we needed especially with our competitor finishing first. All we needed to do was slot in behind him and that’s what we did. We avoided the mayhem in Turn 1, which was great, and we held our own. I am looking forward to tomorrow and hoping to do the same thing.

Bijoy Garg (#7 DEForce Racing Tatuus IP-22): “I lost some positions at the start just with the chaos through Turn 1, but we got reordered in a good spot and in the end it was just about keeping our noses clean. Two people missed the chicane and we got up into third. We could pretty easily drive away. I think we just needed a bit more at the end to challenge Kiko and Myles. It was a really good turnaround from the guys at DEForce to where we were at the start of the season. It feels like a win to me.”

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