Photo: Afterburner Autosport

Dakota Dickerson confirmed for Afterburner USF2000 team

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The second Team USA Scholarship recipient to join the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda grid for 2016, Dakota Dickerson, has been confirmed with Afterburner Autosport.

Dickerson joins Michai Stephens, who will race with RJB Motorsports this year.

Dickerson’s teammate at Afterburner is Felipe Ortiz, and the potential exists further cars could join that team this year on the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Dickerson has already tested with the team several times.

“We’re happy to have Dakota with us,” team owner Tim Walsh said in a release. “I’m impressed with him and his thirst for knowledge and understanding the setups on the car. He’s equal to or faster than any other driver we’ve had. Every driver has a different style, and the keys are to get comfortable with the tires and the car and to understand how it all works. To get that experience is the key to going out and driving to win.”

Dickerson, a San Diego resident, raced in the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy events in England, the open-wheel Skip Barber Summer Series before winning the $200,000 Mazda scholarship shootout, Spec Miata and the California Sports Car Club.

INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
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While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

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