MRTI: Barber weekend digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Here’s some thoughts following the second weekend of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires this season, at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend (additional notes from Tony DiZinno in his post-weekend column here).

Askew-se me While I Play Through?

It was not a perfect weekend for Oliver Askew. Calvin Ming did pip him for fastest lap during practice.

Okay, that line was entirely sarcastic. Simply put: Askew crushed the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda field at Barber Motorsports Park. He claimed pole in both races, led every lap in both races, and won both races.

Askew was dominant at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

In the grand scheme of things, it is not surprising that Askew swept the weekend and has claimed three victories in a row, dating back to Race 2 in St. Petersburg (for reference he was second in Race 1 that weekend, making his average finishing position a staggering 1.25 through four races). Cape Motorsports has won every USF2000 championship since 2011. With Askew, a 2016 Team USA Scholarship recipient and winner of the inaugural USF2000 Scholarship Shootout in December at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, joining the fray, everything on paper indicated another championship run was likely.

But, a new chassis, in this case the Tatuus USF-17, often provides a reset button, allowing other teams a chance to close the gap. And while the likes of Team Pelfrey, Pabst Racing Services, and Exclusive Autosport have all been featured on the podium, Cape Motorsports and Askew have distinguished themselves as title favorites four races into the season.

My MotorsportsTalk colleague Tony DiZinno called the weekend’s performance an “Ask-kicking,” and there can be no arguing the dominance of Askew and Cape Motorsports at the moment.

Kaylen Frederick a “Baby Face” on the Rise

Outside of Askew, 14-year-old Kaylen Frederick, the youngest driver on the circuit, was the shining star at Barber Motorsports Park. The young Frederick pushed Askew in the final laps of Race 1 to finish second and backed it up with a consistent Race 2 to again finish second.

Frederick (right) finished second in both USF2000 races at Barber. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

While winning is the ultimate goal, Frederick was more than happy with the weekend’s results. “I took advantage of what I could today – the Cooper tires wore well so I could just keep my head down and focus,” he said following Race 1. “It took a while to get comfortable with all the high-speed corners and the compressions. It was hard for me to get the confidence to go into those corners with that much speed but it’s all clicked now.”

Along with Rinus Van Kalmthout, with whom Frederick is currently tied for second in the championship, Frederick may be emerging as the biggest threat to Askew in the championship chase. It’s early days for the season, but Frederick is beginning to establish himself as a title contender.

Hertamania 2.0 Weathers the Barber Storms

The rain wasn’t the only storm the drivers of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series had to weather at Barber. A chaotic start to Race 1 saw officials wave it off, and carnage ensued. Perhaps the most notable driver impacted was points leader Colton Herta.

The 17-year-old clipped the left-rear of polesitter Kyle Kaiser after the aborted start, damaging his front wing and forcing an emergency pit stop. He then suffered a penalty after failing to maintain pace car speed, which put him at the back of the field when the race restarted.

However, his quiet though impressive charge to tenth helped limit the damage. Further, he caught a lucky break when Race 2 qualifying was rained out on Sunday morning. The rule book dictates the field is set by points in such circumstances, which put championship leader Herta on the pole. He immediately rocketed away when the race started and led all 35 laps on his way to winning by more than nine seconds.

What’s more, his win was marked with historic significance, as it was the 400th event in Indy Lights history. “I’m so happy to have won the 400th race, and to go into the history books of the series. But the first thing that crossed my mind at the checkered flag was relief – it’s such a physical track so when you’re out in front with a sizable gap, it’s a long race,” Herta said following his Sunday triumph.

All told, he took a weekend that looked to be going badly and completely turned it around. He now leads Kyle Kaiser by 16 points ahead of another double-header at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.

The Unlucky Pato O’Ward

The 2017 season got off to a dream start for the soon-to-be 18-year-old Pato O’Ward. Class wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring were buoyed by a strong opening Indy Lights weekend at St. Petersburg, where he recorded finishes of fifth and third.

However, Lady Luck was not on his side at Barber. O’Ward was one of several drivers to suffer damage after the Race 1 start was aborted, as he actually drove over the back of Santi Urrutia’s machine. O’Ward pitted to replace the front wing, but was able to climb back up to eighth at race’s end.

Sunday’s Race 2, however, was a different story. A first-lap collision with Zachary Claman De Melo sent him spinning into the gravel. Though he was able to return to the pits, damage was too severe to continue, relegating to a 15th-place finish.

For a driver who has enjoyed a memorable 2017 so far, O’Ward’s weekend at Barber Motorsports Park was one to forget.

The Mazda Road to Indy now takes a three-week break before all three series resume action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on May 12-13.

Sports imitates art with Tyler Bereman’s Red Bull Imagination course

Red Bull Imagination Bereman
Chris Tedesco / Red Bull Content Pool
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This past weekend riders took on the Red Bull Imagination, a one-of-a-kind event conceived by Tyler Bereman – an event that blended art, imagination, and sports.

In its third year, Red Bull Imagination opened to the public for the first-time, inviting fans to experience a more personal and creative side of the riders up close and personal.

As the event elevates its stature, the course gets tougher. The jumps get higher and the competition stouter. This year’s course took inspiration from a skatepark, honoring other adrenaline-laced pastimes and competitions.

“There’s a ton of inspiration from other action sports,” Bereman said told Red Bull writer Eric Shirk as he geared up for the event.

MORE: Trystan Hart wins Red Bull Tennessee Knockout 

Bereman was the leading force in the creation of this event and the winner of its inaugural running. In 2022, Bereman had to settle for second with Axell Hodges claiming victory on the largest freeride course created uniquely for the Red Bull Imagination.

Unlike other courses, Bereman gave designer Jason Baker the liberty to create obstacles and jumps as he went. And this was one of the components that helped the course imitate art.

Baker’s background in track design comes from Supercross. In that sport, he had to follow strict guidelines and build the course to a specific length and distance. From the building of the course through the final event, Bereman’s philosophy was to give every person involved, from creators to riders, fans and beyond, the chance to express themselves.

He wanted the sport to bridge the valley between racing and art.

Tyler Bereman uses one of Red Bull Imagination’s unique jumps. Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool

Hodges scored a 98 on the course and edged Bereman by two points. Both riders used the vast variety of jumps to spend a maximum amount of time airborne. Hodges’s first run included nearly every available obstacle including a 180-foot jump before backflipping over the main road.

The riders were able to secure high point totals on their first runs. Then, the wind picked up ahead of Round 2. Christian Dresser and Guillem Navas were able to improve their scores on the second run by creating new lines on the course and displaying tricks that did not need the amount of hangtime as earlier runs. They were the only riders to improve from run one to run two.

With first and second secured with their early runs, Hodge and Bereman teamed up to use their time jointly to race parallel lines and create tandem hits. The two competitors met at the center of the course atop the Fasthouse feature and revved their engines in an embrace.

Julien Vanstippen rounded out the podium with a final score of 92; his run included a landing of a 130-foot super flip.