For Immediate Release: March 14, 2018 – Exclusive Autosport
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 11, 2018) – The 2018 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda has all the makings of becoming the most competitive in the nine-year history of the program, and Exclusive Autosport is excited to be right in the mix for the title in only their second year as part of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Brazilian Igor Fraga led the team’s USF2000 contingent with a podium finish in Race 2, leaving him third overall in the championship standings. The team’s talented Mexican driver Manuel Cabrera had a tougher weekend than was hoped, leaving with two unfinished races, while Canadian Jayson Clunie kept his car clean all weekend which resulted in a pair of solid top-20 finishes.
“I am really proud of my Exclusive Autosport team as this was our first weekend running a combined five cars in both championships,” offered Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal. “The crew did a phenomenal job prepping the cars and maintaining them throughout the weekend. Not only did they provide well-built cars, but also incredibly fast cars as we had drivers in both series start from the front row and drivers in both series finish on the podium. A huge thank you to Aero Advanced Paint Technology for their support. We use their unbelievable product on our entire fleet including our USF2000 and Pro Mazda cars. Not only does Aero™ look amazing, but it is durable, lighter and a really great fit with our program.”
“In USF2000, Jayson Clunie did a great job,” Duncalfe continued. “He missed this event last year, so this was his first time on the streets of St. Petersburg. He worked extremely hard this weekend and showed improvements each time out. His times improved every session and he was able to capitalize on mistakes and carnage ahead of him throughout the races. Manuel had a difficult debut weekend in USF2000. Manuel had a great start in Race 1, however was hit from behind in the first corner ending his day prematurely. Manuel had a solid second race going on Sunday until contact in a late race restart caused some damage to Manuel’s car that ultimately ended his day. He is a superb driver, but he truly had some unfortunate luck. I feel for him, however, I am confident he will come back stronger for Indianapolis. Igor had a really strong debut performance in not only USF2000, but also on a temporary street course, qualifying fourth and second and getting his first podium. I am certain that he would have had two podium finishes had he not been hit from behind in corner 1 of the opening lap of Race 1. He showed his resilience and charged from dead last up to finish in eight position (with a damaged car). He did an incredible job on Sunday, keeping his composure while fending off some attacks for position. He is a rookie who drove like a veteran this weekend.”
As expected, Race 1 had quite an eventful opening lap turn one. Clunie was able to make it through all the havoc unscathed, but Fraga and Cabrera were unfortunately collected due to the errors of others. After getting hit from behind, Fraga continued with a damaged car, working himself masterfully back up to the eighth position. Manuel was not quite as lucky, as damage from the incident left his car undriveable, forcing him to retire with a 25th place finish. Clunie stayed out of trouble the entire race and managed to work his way up to the 17th position.
In Race 2, the streets of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg did not cause any more craziness and all the cars were able to make it through the opening corner without incident. After starting on the outside of the front row following a tremendous qualifying effort, Fraga maintained his second spot and after some close battles with the third-place car, he muscled his way to the end to wind up on the second step of the podium in his debut of USF2000 career. It really worked out well for his points, as he will head into the INDYCAR Grand Prix at IMS third in the points standings. Cabrera started 17th and was quickly in the middle of a heated battle, which eventually resulted in a DNF that was out of his control. Unfortunately, this left him to end up 21st for the day. Clunie capitalized on the mid-race chaos, improving his lap times and moving his way up to finish 20th.
The next stop for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda is the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. The Exclusive Autosport trio will take to the 2.439 mile, 14-turn road course on May 10-12. This will be the first time that both Fraga and Cabrera will have driven the track, but they’ll arrive with high expectations for positive results using the baseline set by teammate Parker Thompson last year.
Exclusive Autosport is pleased to be able to partner with great companies, such as AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology (www.rethinkpaint.com), which is used on all their race cars.
EXCLUSIVE AUTOSPORT – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
USF2000 – ROUNDS 1/2 – MARCH 9-11, 2018
GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG – ST. PETERSBURG, FL
IGOR FRAGA – #90
Qualifying 1: 4th – 1:12.841
Qualifying 2: 2nd – 1:12.493
Race 1: Start – 4th / Finish – 8th
Race 2: Start – 2nd / Finish – 2nd
Driver Quote: “This weekend was quite hard for me, because I don’t have a lot experience here in America. I’m used to standing starts, so getting use to rolling starts was a challenge. The second race was a lot better than the first at the start, as I used what I learned from the first race to defend my position. The team did an awesome job to always set-up of the car and make it comfortable for me. The second race was so close with third place, so with no mistakes, I was able to finish in second place. I wish I could have gotten two podiums, but after this I’ll be more prepared and with more experience here in America, I’m excited for the next race! Thank you very much to the Exclusive Autosport team and all of my sponsors.”
MANUEL CABRERA – #91
Qualifying 1: 16th – 1:13.897
Qualifying 2: 17th – 1:13.542
Race 1: Start – 16th / Finish – 25th
Race 2: Start – 17th / Finish – 21st
Driver Quote: “It was a great weekend in St. Pete because I learned a lot. It was difficult in the races, but I am pleased to gain the experience and will look to improve my driving as I focus on the next race. I’m going to work very hard during this month and the next one to have a better result at Indianapolis!”
JAYSON CLUNIE – #92
Qualifying 1: 23RD – 1:16.585
Qualifying 2: 24TH – 1:16.542
Race 1: Start – 23rd / Finish – 17th
Race 2: Start – 24th / Finish – 20th
Driver Quote: “It is really exciting to get back in the Exclusive Autosport cars for a race weekend! This was my first time at this race and I was really surprised how fun and smooth the track is. The weekend started off slowly for me, but I got better every time out. The field this year is very strong, so it will be harder to meet my goal of top-10s, but it should only make me better. I can’t thank Michael and Kimberly enough for the opportunity to be part of such a great team.”