MONTEREY, Calif. – When Cape Motorsports packed up the trailer at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca following the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires finale that put a cap on the 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, they did so as nine-time series champions.
Following a hard-fought battle throughout the season, American Braden Eves put his Cape Motorsports USF-17 in victory lane on Sunday for the sixth time this season, topping Kiwi Hunter McElrea for the crown and the Road to Indy scholarship for 2020. Eves finished fourth on Saturday to set up his bid for the title, and then went out and fought tooth-and-nail for the race win to grab hold of the lucrative championship.
The win and the title make it nine straight championships for the St. Petersburg, Florida based team, which is the winningest in USF2000 history. Eves joins elite company in Cape’s championship alumni, including Matthew Brabham, Petri Suvanto, Scott Hargrove, Florian LaTorre, Nico Jamin, Anthony Martin, Oliver Askew, and Kyle Kirkwood.
“It seems like a long time ago when we were sitting there at St. Pete waiting for the first session, and there have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the season as always,” commented Dominic and Nicholas Cape, the owners of Cape Motorsports. “All of our drivers – Braden, Darren, Jak and Reece – worked extremely hard at every race to improve their craft, and we are very proud of their body of work. As for the team, you’re only as good as the guys around you, and we can’t say enough about their dedication, hard work and constant strive for perfection; we’d like to thank Reg, Colin, Kyle, Scott, Jeremy, Alan, Larry, Mathew, Neil and Wil. It was another hard-fought season is in the books, and we’d like to offer our congratulations to everyone who competed in the 2019 championship and were looking forward to an exciting 2020 season.”
The team fielded cars for a quartet of drivers in Monterey, as Eves was joined under the tent by Darren Keane, Reece Gold and Jak Crawford.
Eves’ weekend went as well as possible, as the Ohio driver took the pole for Race 1 as the team leveraged a fresh set of Cooper tires to make sure their young driver would start up front to begin his hunt for the title. Eves ran a strong opening race to gain valuable points, finishing fourth. On Sunday, he started third and attacked for the lead on the opening lap, making an aggressive championship move to the lead. Braden held off all challengers to score the win he needed to take the title.
“What can you say, against all odds, we were talking to someone before the weekend at Laguna started and they asked me what we thought the chances were and we replied, “the cream always rises to the top,” offered the Cape brothers, in regards to Braden’s shot at the title. “We have to say with it all on the line at the final race, on used tires against new tires which are a huge disadvantage at Laguna, Braden did what all champions do. He made it happen. We’re all very proud of what Braden has accomplished this year.”
Keane capped off a strong season with a pair of top-seven finishes at Laguna Seca to end the season fifth in the championship standings, adding a race win to the Cape’s record books with a tremendous victory in Toronto in July.
“Darren improved immensely on his previous season, and was always in the hunt every weekend, collected his first pole position and his first win,” added the team owners. “We’re all really proud of what he has achieved this year and look for Darren to keep improving and fighting for wins.”
The team also fielded cars for a pair of 14-year-old rookies in 2019 and they each came away with vastly developed skills and the key experience needed to contend for the championship in 2020. Jak Crawford joined the team at the Mid-Ohio round and has picked up his pace ever since. At Laguna Seca, the Texas qualified sixth and fourth, respectively, and then finished fifth in the Race 1. An opening lap incident in turn 3 sent him to the tail of the field and he finished 15th in the final tally. Despite missing the opening race weekend waiting to become legal age for the series, Crawford finished seventh overall in the championship.
“Jak was on the team for the final three races,” commented Dominic Cape. “We talked to his dad in the middle of last year, but nothing really materialized, then we crossed lines before IMS and Jak ended up on another team. It’s always hard to come into a team for the final three races. It takes time to learn the way the team works, communicates, and how a team navigates through a race weekend. Jak did an extremely good job for us.”
Reece Gold came to Cape Motorsports after winning the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, and he displayed speed and consistency all year with his focus on developing his skills and experience level ahead of 2020. Reece qualified in the top-10 for both races of the doubleheader in Monterey and he raced extremely well, coming away with an eighth-place finish in the final race of the season. Gold finished 10th in the championship, ensuring that all four Cape drivers were in the top-10 in the standings.
“Reece has come a long way since the first test with us at Palm Beach last November, and he’s improved every weekend and has never stopped learning,” Cape enthused. “He met his goals set at the beginning of the season to finish in the top-10 in points, and we’re looking to have another good off-season of improvement before St Pete in 2020.”
“At the banquet, it was awesome to see our last three Cape Motorsports USF2000 Champions all collecting championships,” the Capes continued. “Braden as the 2019 USF2000 Champion, Kyle Kirkwood as the 2019 Indy Pro Champion, and Oliver Askew as the 2019 Indy Lights Champion – it was truly a special night for the Cape Motorsport graduates.”
With their ninth title in the books, the Capes have immediately turned their attention to the 2020 season, which begins now. The Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 19-20 in the next date on the Cape calendar and those interested in testing with the team should contact the team directly.
CAPE MOTORSPORTS – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
USF2000 – ROUNDS 14/15 – SEPTEMBER 20-22 30, 2019
WEATHERTECH RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA – MONTEREY, CA
DARREN KEANE – #2
Qualifying 1: 8th – 1:25.9733
Qualifying 2: 7th – 1:25.7741
Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 7th
Race 2: Start – 7th / Finish – 6th
ON LAGUNA: “Laguna didn’t go the way I wanted. I just didn’t seem to connect with the car setup in qualifying, which led to difficult races coming from mid-pack. A sixth and a seventh wasn’t how I wanted to finish the season, but I did enjoy some good passes at the iconic track.
ON THE 2019 SEASON: “This season was my most successful in my racing career. The highlights were four podiums and my first win in Toronto, something I will look back on forever. There were some unfortunate events at the beginning of the season where something went wrong during every race weekend until Toronto, so a fifth place in the overall championship isn’t too bad. Fifth is not where I want to be and I’m always going to want more, but I can be proud of what I have achieved this season. This season couldn’t have been possible without the support of my parents – a huge thank you to them for allowing me to pursue my dreams. Another huge thank you to Oswaldo Negri, he’s an expert at what he does and I’m also happy to call him my friend. I want to thank Alycia Hodapp from In2itive Media Management for the never-ending support and effort all season long. Lastly, thank you to everyone at Cape Motorsports for giving me a good car all season.
REECE GOLD – #3
Qualifying 1: 7th – 1:25.9145
Qualifying 2: 6th – 1:25.7673
Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 11th
Race 2: Start – 6th / Finish – 8th
ON LAGUNA: “The final race of the season went pretty well. It was awesome to race at a track like Laguna Seca. We improved in qualifying ending up P7 and P6, but got unlucky in the races although I still secured a top-10. Overall, it was another good weekend. Thanks to my sponsors The Ticket Clinic and Lucas Oil School of Racing for supporting and Cape Motorsports.”
ON THE 2019 SEASON: “My first season in USF2000 was pretty good overall. We had our ups and downs but we improved every race. We also secured a top-10 in the points. I learned a lot over the course of the season. I’m already preparing for next year to give it my all and fight at the front. Congratulations to Braden Eves and my team on another championship.”
JACK CRAWFORD – #4
Qualifying 1: 6th – 1:25.8694
Qualifying 2: 4th – 1:25.6873
Race 1: Start – 6th / Finish – 5th
Race 2: Start – 4th / Finish – 15th
ON LAGUNA: “Laguna was a good weekend for me. I showed good pace during the races. I struggled with my tire wear and just when we got the car right for race two, I had an incident I could not avoid while going for P2 on the start. Laguna Seca was by far my favorite track of the whole season and I can’t wait to go back.”
ON THE 2019 SEASON: “Looking back on the season, I say it was a very good rookie season for me. I had many 4th and 5th place finishes and narrowly just missed out on a few podiums. I feel like I had a little bad luck at times being caught up in some unavoidable incidents, but it’s racing. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store and I can’t wait to get back for next season.”
BRADEN EVES – #8
Qualifying 1: 1st – 1:24.9937
Qualifying 2: 3rd – 1:25-4515
Race 1: Start – 1st / Finish – 4th
Race 2: Start – 3rd / Finish – 1st
ON LAGUNA: “Laguna was a crazy weekend. We went in knowing we had to perform to take the championship, and it came down to the last race a couple of positions. Looking back, it still feels like something that I could’ve watched in a movie rather than something that actually happened to me, but all in all, it was an incredible weekend that I will never forget. Incredible job by the team, and in the end the strategy worked out and we came out with a win to top off the season!”
ON THE 2019 SEASON: “This year was the biggest learning year of my life. I learned a lot about racing, about myself, and have grown so much. There were some really great times and some tough ones, but the tough ones are the ones that ended up making me learn the most. The series was so competitive, with five different winners on four different teams, something that hasn’t happened in years in the series. All in all, I’m feeling amazing to go into Chris Griffis and next year.”