Lee claims second consecutive top-ten finish at home event
Indianapolis, Ind. (May 16, 2023) – Michael d’Orlando earned his first podium finish of the season at this weekend’s USF Pro 2000 Discount Tire Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2022 USF2000 champion was quick all weekend, placing his #1 USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems car in the top-three in every practice session and qualifying fourth for Race 1 amid changing track conditions due to rainy weather.
In Race 1, d’Orlando got a great start and took over third on the opening lap. Shortly after, the 21-year-old jumped up to second before a yellow flag came out for debris on the course. The race restarted on Lap 5 but was red flagged just before the halfway point as rain started to fall over the speedway. Once all teams had changed their cars to rain tires, the race restarted and d’Orlando went on the attack, swiftly taking the lead from the #12 car of Kiko Porto. After leading several laps, the changing conditions made it too difficult to hold onto the car for the lead, dropping d’Orlando back to P3 in the final minutes where he finished Race 1.
Race 2 saw d’Orlando starting third for the 25-lap event, however, he improved up to P2 on the opening lap as championship leader Myles Rowe spun, opening the door for d’Orlando to gain both track position and valuable championship points. A yellow flag on Lap 3 set the field up for a restart and a chance to have a go for the lead; unfortunately, d’Orlando found himself held back by the leader when the green flag was called, allowing several cars to overtake them before the first corner. Yet another caution came out immediately, and the field restarted again with 15 laps to go. d’Orlando knew he needed to be aggressive to make up the lost positions and gave it all he had to fight his way back up. Unfortunately, contact with the #6 car of Reece Ushijima ended up being d’Orlando’s downfall with the latter sustaining damage and finishing the race three laps down in P14.
#1 Michael d'Orlando // USF Pro 2000
USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems/Focused Project Management/Rising Star Racing/UFC Gym Mamaroneck/Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22
“What a rollercoaster of a weekend,” said d’Orlando. “Since the start of the first practice, we were one of the fastest cars on track. A solid qualifying gave us a good shot for the win in Race 1 which we almost had. The changing conditions gave me the opportunity to pull away, but in the end we didn’t have the grip to pull it off. I’m really proud of our performance nonetheless. However Race 2 wasn’t the same; chaos ensued throughout the race up until I got plowed into at Turn 1. I’m glad the weekend is over and can’t wait until Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park to show the world that we can win.”
Jonathan Browne, who was last year’s pole winner at the Indy GP, came out of the weekend with his best career finishes in the USF Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, claiming two P4 results and becoming the second best scoring driver of the weekend by just two points. The 22-year-old was consistently in the top-six in every session on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course and left Rounds 5 and 6 locking in eighth in the championship standings.
Friday morning rain showers meant USF Pro 2000 qualifying would commence on a wet track, making tire strategy a key component in the 20-min session. Browne opted to go out on rain tires and immediately put out the fastest lap time. With eight minutes to go, Browne was fastest by over 1.5 seconds before coming into the pits for a change to slick tires. With the rest of the field coming up to speed in the final minutes, Browne went back out for one last qualifying run on slicks, ending up P6 for the start of Race 1.
Race 1 kicked off with a big scrap into Turn 1, causing Browne to go into the runoff and rejoin the field in eighth. When rain started fall just before the halfway point, all drivers were called into the pits to put on rain tires. As the race restarted, Browne began the chase for his first podium, overtaking three cars in the final laps to put the #2 JB Racing Tatuus IP-22 fourth across the finish line, just narrowly missing out on his first podium in the series.
In Race 2, Browne started P5 but lost some positions at the start, dropping back to P9. A yellow flag and restart on Lap 6 opened the door for Browne to bolt ahead of the leaders as soon as the green flag was called, pushing him up to P3 after the first corner. After a hard fought battle in the remaining laps, Browne ultimately came across the line in fourth at the end of the 25 lap race.
#2 Jonathan Browne // USF Pro 2000
JB Racing / Motorsport Ireland / CRPS Awareness
“It was a really positive weekend for myself at IMS,” said Browne. “The changeable conditions played into my favor, and I was able to use my experience to put us in the right places and bring home two fourth place finishes. We never left the top-six in every session, so it’s definitely a momentum builder heading into the coming races. A huge thanks to all the Turn 3 crew for their hard work throughout the event. We keep moving forward!”
Indiana native Jackson Lee showed very strong pace throughout the weekend, starting off with a P9 qualifying position for the first of two races. In the opening lap chaos of Race 1, Lee fell back a few positions initially, but stayed in the fight. When rain started falling just before the halfway mark, Lee and the rest of the field came into the pits for rain tires before being sent back out to finish the race. Once it was back to green, the 20-year-old worked his way up to P10 in the remaining laps, marking his second consecutive top-ten finish.
Lee started ninth again for Race 2, this time gaining a position at the start and moving up to eighth. Not long after, Lee was putting out the fastest lap times on the track before his wheel speed sensor suddenly failed, halting his progress, ending his race early, and scoring the #47 IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Browning Chapman/Prime 47 car in P18.
#47 Jackson Lee // USF Pro 2000
IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Race for RP/Prime 47/Browning Chapman
“While it wasn’t the results we wanted, we showed very strong pace this weekend,” said Lee. “We survived the mixed conditions for a top-ten result in Race 1, and the #47 IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center car was the fastest car on track in Race 2 until a sensor failure took us out of the race early. There was nothing the team or I could have done, so we will keep looking forward and get ready for the Carb Night Classic at Indianapolis Raceway Park in just a couple of weeks.”
Turn 3 Motorsport Team Owner
“We showed how strong we are as a team with great speed over the weekend,” said Team Owner Peter Dempsey. "I'm proud of our Race 1 results as it was the best we could have had under the circumstances and mixed track conditions. I’m happy for Michael (d’Orlando) to finally get his first podium of the season. Jonathan (Browne) raced hard up to a well-earned P4 and Jackson (Lee) had another solid result with a P10.”
“In Race 2, Michael just got caught out with a driver that didn’t know the rules, and it really hurt his chances of a win getting stuck behind him on the restart,” continued Dempsey. “Once you get stuck back in the pack, anything can happen and unfortunately Michael was taken out by another driver error. The driving standard within the series certainly dropped this weekend, so hopefully it gets under control at the next round. Jonathan raced solid once again and brought home another fourth place, and unfortunately for Jackson, he had a wheel speed sensor fail which ruined his chances at another strong result. Now, we look forward to the oval at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park next week. Championship points will be worth more there, so hopefully we can get strong results with all three drivers.”
Round 7 of the USF Pro Championships takes place at the Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park oval from May 25-26.
To stay up to date on Turn 3 Motorsport, follow the team on social media using the handle @turn3motorsport.
Gavin Baker Photo / USF Pro Championships