Myles Rowe scores historic first USF2000 victory for Force Indy

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Myles Rowe became the first Black driver to win in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, completing a thrilling last-lap pass for victory in the middle race of a series tripleheader Sunday at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.

The Georgia native and New York resident, who drives for the new Force Indy team, overcame wet conditions on the 2.25-mile track to seize the lead from points leader Kiko Porto on the last of 20 laps after starting 10th.

With his first victory, Rowe validated the support of 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power, who has championed Rowe’s ability since racing against him in go-karts a few years ago.

“As I was coming to the finish, I had to radio my spotter (Jon Bouslog) and ask him, ‘Are we in the lead?’ He told me, ‘Keep going, keep going,’ ” Rowe said in a release Sunday. “I knew I was in second, but looking at my first win, I just didn’t believe it. Once I took the checkered, my first thought was, ‘I’m here.’ I can’t thank my parents so much for all the love, support and patience. Rod Reid, Jon, the whole team, Stu, Derrick, Zach I can’t thank them all enough. And of course, Roger Penske and Will Power. So many people who put me where I am, where Force Indy is today.”

As part of IndyCar’s Race for Equality and Change, Force Indy was formed last year in a technical support alliance with Team Penske.

Force Indy is led by African-American team principal Rod Reid, who has put an emphasis on hiring Black American men and women in all departments of the team (from office staff to mechanics to drivers such as Rowe, who was hired in February).

USF2000 is the first rung on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system that helps cultivate and promote talent to the NTT IndyCar Series.

Myles Rowe victory
Myles Rowe celebrates with family members after his first USF2000 victory (Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy).

“Until you actually win one of these, you don’t know what you’re going to feel,” Reid said. “For us, the early part of that battle was reminiscent of St. Pete, when we were in fourth and going for third until we made a mistake. I was right there in Turn Eight and saw him battling for third and then for the lead, and I thought ‘can we do this, is this real?’

But this is why we do this, it’s a great feeling. The entire team did great – the crew in setting up the car, and Myles, managing tire wear. We’re so excited for everyone who worked so hard to be in this position.”

Said Rowe: “There’s been pressure, but it’s just about focusing on the present. There’s been a lot of attention, but also a lot of support. For me as a driver, all I can worry about is what I can do. It’s helped me control my emotions, control my actions and really be able to plot this path, and help plot the path for Force Indy. We’re going to keep going from here.”

Rowe’s victory came on what would have been the 100th birthday of NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, the only Black driver to win in the premier Cup series.

Myles Rowe victory
Force Indy team principal Rod Reid and driver Myles Rowe share a moment after their victory (Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy).

Porto, from Recife, Brazil, finished second for DEForce Racing, and teammate Nolan Siegel, from Palo Alto, Calif., took third. Click here for the race results.

Series officials decreed a wet start, requiring the 23-car grid to begin on grooved Cooper tires. Several cars switched to slick tires as the course began to dry after the green.

Rowe patiently worked his way through the field, picking up the last three spots in the final four laps, including the winning pass in Turn 9.

“I haven’t had that many sessions in the wet, but for some reason, I seem to excel in these conditions,” Rowe said.

“I think it’s just extra confidence. We were aiming for a top-10 finish this weekend and our plan today was just to hit our marks, let other people make mistakes and see what could happen. I was able to pick people off like a chess game. I was able to be in guys’ mirrors and take advantage on the exit of corners. I knew Kiko was thinking championship so he was very respectful. I appreciate that.”

Myles Rowe victory
Myles Rowe in victory lane (Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy).

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)