Eves claims the title by 6 points over hard-charging Hunter McElrea.
Eves entered the weekend singularly focused. He entered Sunday hoping to overcome a 12 point deficit and winning the title. He needed every ounce of that focus to pull it off.
After a strong finish by Hunter McElrea in race one, Eves knew that he had to perform in race two. McElrea was forced to start in the back of the pack due to a mechanical issue that occurred in qualifying for race two, but Eves knew that McElrea would be charging and that the points gap for a victory vs. second place would probably be needed. And it was.
Add to this the fact that Eves was going to have to start race two on used Cooper Tires while those cars around him had a fresh set of Cooper Tires and it was going to be a challenge.
But Eves and his Cape Motorsports team were up to the task.
Eves vaulted from third to first on the opening lap passing pole sitter Colin Kaminsky and held on for his 6th victory of the season despite challenges from Kaminsky, Eduardo Barrichello and Race 1 winner Christian Rasmussen. Rasmussen mounted a charge that included a run from a 10th place starting position and setting fast lap of the race.
Despite being under pressure from the drop of the green flag and then from the drivers that looked to take the lead from him, Eves never waivered.
Luckily the rear view mirror of the #8 car for Eves was not large enough to see the charge being mounted by Hunter McElrea.
McElrea started 18th on the grid and without the aid of yellows was able to advance to 7th place. But it was not enough to make up the gap.
That was the hardest race of my life, without a doubt. Everyone around me [at the start] had new tires. I had used tires, but I had to win to win the championship. I had to go for the lead in the first corner, and the guys behind put pressure on me the entire race. Iím so happy to finish with the form we had earlier in the season. We started off so well, but it felt like it was slipping away, which put so much pressure on me. I got a stroke of luck, with the issue he had in qualifying, but Hunter did an incredible job. I have so much respect for him, he really pushed me. This was the hardest year of my life by a mile.Braden Eves (#8 MDRN Livery/Community Choice Financial-Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17)
ĒThis is everything Iíve dreamed about all my life. I have to pinch myself, to make sure Iím not still dreaming! Iíve been trying to make a career in racing and the Road to Indy is how you do it, it gives opportunities to people with talent who earn their way up the ladder. All that matters now is that Iíll be racing next year in Indy Pro 2000.
McElrea’s Pabst Racing Team took the Team Championship for the Season.
Disappointment for Hunter McElrea
Hunter took to twitter and showed the class of a champion in a series of post.
Itís hard to put into words what I am feeling right now, but all I can say is that I am so proud of the efforts from my team, and the debut year that I had in America. Unfortunately, I was unable to clinch the championship, I drove my heart out from 18th to 7th but ultimately starting last due to factors outside of my control meant that it wasnít to be.
Being completely honest, I have never been so disappointed in my life, but in saying that I have so many things to be thankful and positive about. it has been an honour to have had the opportunity to race in this amazing country, and at this level due to Mazda Motorsports, Pabst Racing, and all my supporters and backers at home.
Iím not sure what the future holds for next year, but I know that I am going to be giving it everything I have to be back chasing my dream. Thank you all for your amazing support and well wishes all year, it means a lot! #TeamCooperTire #RoadtoIndyHunter McElrea
Indy Pro 2000 up next for Braden Eves
The New Albany, Ohio native now gets to step up the ladder into Indy Pro 2000 and it will be interesting to see what team he ends up with and how he performs. Recent USF2000 winners have had success at the next level and with the right team, there is little doubt that Eves can do the same.