USF Pro Championships talent watch: Michael d’Orlando

With three wins in the last six races, Michael d’Orlando (above) has put himself back into the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship picture — and seeing the native New Yorker making a late season charge is a déjà vu moment for his competitors. 

D’Orlando, who’s currently in his third year at the University of North Carolina studying marketing, came from behind to capture last year’s USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship title. That earned him a scholarship that propelled him up the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires ladder and into USF Pro 2000 this season. 

That scholarship meant the difference between competing in 2023 and not, as the d’Orlando family — including brother Nicholas, who has been limited to three races this season — searches for viable sponsors to help the siblings continue their racing careers.


“Without Andersen Promotions and the USF Pro Championships, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to continue racing this year,” says d’Orlando. “My family and I work extremely hard to keep both Nick and myself in race cars, and I race every weekend like it could be my last, enjoying every moment. So far, this year has been a testament to that.”

A multi-time national karting champion, d’Orlando finished in the top four in each of his three full seasons in USF2000 and holds a remarkable finishing record of 39 top-five results from 53 races. He’s the only driver in USF2000 history to earn back-to-back victories in the series’ marquee event, the Freedom 75 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (in 2020 and 2021).

2022 saw d’Orlando engage in a constant battle with eventual runner up Myles Rowe. The championship came down to the season finale, with d’Orlando taking the win to earn the title — the last USF2000 championship for the legendary Cape Motorsports team.

While it’s taken a bit of time for things to come together for d’Orlando this year, including becoming accustomed to a new team in Turn 3 Motorsport (below), it also took until the midway point of the season for him to put a substantial amount of bad luck behind him. 

#1 Michael d’Orlando, Turn 3 Motorsport, Focused Project Management,

“It was definitely a tough start to the year,” he says. “I was caught up in incidents in four of the first six races, then had a rough qualifying on the oval. Thankfully, it finally started turning around at Road America, where we were able to start putting it all together. (Team owner) Peter Dempsey and I have had so many conversations about what we can do to have our results show our effort.” 

Into the second half of the season, d’Orlando has scored three wins in six races to significantly close the points gap, leaving him only 12 points behind second place. From there, he figures he can begin the charge on Rowe in the top spot, and hopefully duplicate the end result from last year. 

Momentum is key to racing and d’Orlando is feeling the pendulum swing toward him as the season hits the home stretch with only a doubleheader at COTA, Aug. 24-27, and the tripleheader finale at Portland, Aug. 31-Sept. 3, remaining. While he knows he has a hill to climb, he has the experience of having overcome the deficit last year front and center in his memory banks.

D’Orlando has faith in his own ability, but also believes the tight competition and rivalry with Rowe can benefit his future. The duo are currently the only two drivers in USF Pro 2000 with multiple victories and pole positions, and both hope to add “d’Orlando and Rowe” to the long list of USF Pro Championships rivalries that have continued into the NTT IndyCar Series — a list that includes Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay and Oliver Askew, and David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood.

“I really believe that Myles and I push each other to be better,” says d’Orlando. “Without the other, I don’t think either one of us would be as good. It’s quite interesting and challenging to battle with someone like him, who’s so competitive. I’m glad I’m back in that position with him and I hope we can find the support to continue this fight. 

“I have to say, I wouldn’t be here without the scholarship from USF2000, and support from my sponsor, Priority Technology Holdings, and the Turn 3 team. That combination is what’s allowing me to show what I can do.”

While he strives to continue his 2023 campaign, d’Orlando has the foresight to continue to work on 2024. To that end, he attended the NTT IndyCar Series’ Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville earlier this month to grow his network and to understand the process that makes an Indy NXT and IndyCar Series team work. 

“I want to be an IndyCar driver and I won’t stop working toward that,” he explains. “My family doesn’t have the budget that some other drivers have, but I want to be the next young driver who graduates up the ladder from nothing. I want to prove that you can accomplish anything with hard work and talent. I want to prove to myself and to the next generation of young drivers that it’s not all about the money; it’s about heart. A good driver with heart will outperform any other driver. I don’t care how long it takes.”

As the season heads toward its conclusion, d’Orlando hopes to be out on track and continue what he knows is a burgeoning rivalry.  

“I think that if you look at the timing sheets throughout the year,” he says, “the two drivers who continuously appear at the top are me and Myles — it’s just been time and place misfortune for us this year, with all the incidents that have happened to us. But we just have to keep pushing, keep putting ourselves in the best position. We know we have the pace.”

Learn more about Michael at, and for the latest news and results from USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, click here.

Story originally appeared on Racer