Road America couldn’t come soon enough for Robert Megennis as he prepared to step up his game in this weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda doubleheader.
The 17-year-old New Yorker is the only driver other than Oliver Askew to win a USF2000 race this season. Megennis, driving for Team Pelfrey, won the first race of the season at St. Petersburg, but Askew has taken five straight wins since.
While the USF2000 championship was on a break since last month’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course doubleheader, Megennis won last weekend’s Formula Ford race – also at the 4.014-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The USF2000 sophomore felt that a weekend at Road America – even in a different car – would be a much-needed skill sharpener as he returns to the USF2000 car.
“It was just good to just get out to Road America and get some track time," Megennis said. "In the races, (to) remember where the passing spots are, how to race at Road America. It helped me work on my technique in the race car and at that track specifically.
“From a driving standpoint, racing standpoint and mentally, it was a good, relaxed weekend and it helped me get in the right state of mind for this weekend.”
After six races, the driver of the No. 80 Palo Alto Networks Tatuus USF-17/Mazda sits sixth in the standings. In addition to the win at St. Petersburg, he racked up finishes of fourth and sixth in the Barber Motorsports Park doubleheader and was seventh in the second race on the IMS road course.
On the flip side, Megennis crashed out of the second race at St. Petersburg and was disqualified from the first Indianapolis race for a technical infraction.
“It’s been pretty good, a little up and down,” he said. “It’s the Mazda Road to Indy, I’m here to learn how to drive, and I’m figuring myself out and figuring these new cars out. It hasn’t been bad at all.
“After the crash in St. Pete, that kind of hurt my momentum a little bit,” he said. “I was kind of on the back foot. If I could have kept the same mindset and the same attitude after St. Pete that I had at St. Pete, I would have done better later on.”
Megennis is 106 points behind series leader Askew but not intimidated. He finds the challenge inspiring because he is the only other USF2000 driver to win so far this year.
“It gives us confidence because we are the only team who has beaten him, so we know we can do it and we have to do it again,” Megennis said. “I’m pretty motivated right now to show what I’ve got.”
Winning the Formula Ford division last weekend at Road America boosts his confidence to improve on seventh- and 11th-place finishes in last year’s doubleheader at the track.
“Last year, it was a new track that I had never been to,” he said. “It was my first year and everything. I feel like I have a lot more confidence this year; especially after last weekend, getting the result I did.
“I’m feeling pretty good for this weekend.”
Megennis was 12th fastest of the 20 drivers participating in today’s opening practice session at Road America. Rinus VeeKay led the session with a lap of 2 minutes, 10.989 seconds (110.317 mph), leading a trio of Pabst Racing drivers atop the chart in their home race. Askew was fourth at 2:11.646 and Megennis 12th at 2:13.247.
On Friday, USF2000 – the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder – will conduct two qualifying sessions and its first race. The series’ second race will be Saturday.
Meanwhile, in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Victor Franzoni won the pole for the first race of the weekend in qualifying today. Driving the No. 23 Juncos Racing Mazda, Franzoni’s fast lap was 2:06.584 (114.157 mph). Anthony Martin was second in the No. 8 Cape Motorsports Mazda at 2:07.9055. Pro Mazda holds the first race of its weekend doubleheader on Friday.