Franzoni dominates in USF2000 in Monterey

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MONTEREY, Calif. – A caution-free, 30-minute race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda, saw Victor Franzoni and ArmsUp Motorsports continue their weekend domination.

The Brazilian led flag-to-flag from pole in the 21-lap race for his second win of the season, fourth in USF2000, and won by 12.9597 seconds.

Franzoni said he was “really calm” throughout the race – hoping not to get too lackadaisical and lose concentration. He thanked ArmsUp engineer John Walko, who said that thanks to a great setup off the truck and an “old school” mentality has paid dividends. Franzoni has finished in the top-five every race since the first of two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course back in May, so that’s a run of 11 consecutive races.

Behind him, Parker Thompson took second place in the first Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car and gained three points on Anthony Martin, who finished third after holding off a race-long charge from a pair of his Australian countrymen, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing).

Thompson made a move on Martin for second place at Turn 6 on Lap 11, which narrowed a 24-point gap at the time to 18, but he’ll still need a bit of help to overcome the deficit on Sunday.

Martin’s lead over Thompson is 18 points (369-351) headed to tomorrow’s season finale. Franzoni, who had a remote mathematical chance only at winning the title, was eliminated, but has clinched third in the championship behind the Cape twins.

Yufeng Luo finished sixth ahead of series debutante Phillippe Denes, the young American who staged an impressive drive for Team Pelfrey to come from 15th to seventh. Full-season rookie Robert Megennis was eighth in another Pelfrey entry with Lucas Kohl and Dakota Dickerson completing the top-10.

An off for Nikita Lastochkin at Turn 6 derailed a potential top-10 for him, while the other series debutantes Kaylen Frederick (13th) and Michael Scott (17th) – failed to figure in the day. Scott incurred a rare mechanical issue for John Cummiskey Racing.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)