The first podium in history for a car racing driver with Albanian roots came on Saturday, March 25, at Sebring International Raceway, courtesy of Monaco Increase Management’s latest acquisition Lirim Zendeli. The 23-years old could not hope for a better way to crown his second racing weekend in the USF Pro 2000 series, but this result was hardly fought and well deserved. Together with sixth place in Race 1, Zendeli scored enough points to climb up to fourth overall in the points standings, pairing local hero Jace Denmark.
The Florida weekend had not started so well for Zendeli and his #10 TJ Speed Motorsports car, the young MIM driver struggling with power output out of corners in the first qualifying session. As the Friday race unfolded though, Zendeli was able to pass one driver at the start and then take advantage on another car leaving the track, but was subsequently involved in a melee which cost him some track positions and ended up sixth overall by passing Reece Ushijima in the last stages of the races.
Between the two events of the weekend, TJ Speed Motorsports changed the engine on Zendeli’s car, and Lirim profited from the performance improvement by taking fourth place on the starting grid for the Sunday race. Lirim had a good start and then worked his way through the field, taking the best out of a multiple car battle and trailing series leader Myles Rowe all the way through the finish line, notwithstanding a double safety car interruption which allowed the car behind to close in on the race leaders.
Zendeli’s podium finish was a powerful boost for both his and the team’s morale, as the series takes a break before the next event on the calendar scheduled for May 11-13 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit.