Bumper USF Pro Championships Fields Ready for Mid-Ohio
 June 28, 2023| 
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PALMETTO, Fla. – The USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel driver development ladder series heads this week to the scenic and challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington, Ohio, in support of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires is enjoying a banner season with no fewer than 13 of the 20 regular contenders already having earned at least one podium finish, while USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires also is enjoying a surge of interest with four new drivers ensuring the largest entry list of the season to date at 24 cars for the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio triple-header.

Both series are now past the halfway point in the season, with the Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarships valued, collectively, at almost $1.1 million on offer to ensure graduation onto the next step of the ladder in 2024.

Rowe Maintains USF Pro 2000 Momentum
Myles Rowe came agonizingly close to clinching his first USF Pro Championships title last year, losing out only at the final event of the 18-race USF2000 season to Michael d’Orlando. Rowe, a university graduate from Brooklyn, N.Y., who in 2021 became the first Black driver to win a USF2000 race, has since stepped up to USF Pro 2000, and at the halfway point of the season has established a commanding 48-point advantage over his nearest challengers in the quest for a scholarship to move on next year to INDY NXT.

Pabst Racing with Force Indy’s Rowe is currently the only driver to have more than one win to his name. He began the season on a tear, with a third-place finish followed by a hat-trick of wins, and while he has been frustrated in his attempts to add to that victory tally since Sebring in March, Rowe has accumulated points steadily and will arrive in Ohio with the knowledge that he scored two USF2000 wins last year on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course.

The third race on the 2022 USF2000 triple-header schedule was won by d’Orlando, who has continued to show his capabilities since graduating into USF Pro 2000. He has also experienced all manner of misfortune. The Hartsdale, N.Y., native finally earned his first win of the season in the most recent event at Road America, where he also became the first repeat polesitter during a remarkably open season. Unfortunately, his hopes of a second win in Race Two were in tatters even before the green flag when his Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22 sustained damage following a clash of wheels on the parade lap.

While Rowe enjoys a handy points lead, the pursuit behind him is intense with five drivers blanketed by just 19 points. Not far in arrears, an additional five contenders are separated by a mere nine points. Bear in mind that 30 points are available for a race win, plus single points for pole position, fastest race lap and leading most laps, so the relative order can change very quickly.

Impressive Italian rookie Francesco Pizzi (TJ Speed Motorsports) and Brazilian veteran Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), a winner at Mid-Ohio en route to claiming the USF2000 championship title in 2021, currently hold second and third in the points chase. Both are still chasing their first victories of the season.

Exclusive Autosport teammates Joel Granfors, from Sweden, and Mexico’s Salvador de Alba, a podium finisher last year at Mid-Ohio, are hot on their heels, as is Turn 3 Motorsport’s Jonathan Browne, from Ireland, who secured a long overdue first podium finish at Road America.

Preparation for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio doubleheader will commence with almost two hours of testing on Thursday, June 29. A further 30 minutes of official practice on Friday morning, June 30, will precede a pair of qualifying sessions at 10:25 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. EDT which will determine the starting order for each of the two races at 11:55 a.m. and 5:25 p.m. on Saturday, July 1.

Hughes Vs. Sikes in USF2000
Only three events, totaling eight races, remain in the USF2000 season, beginning with this week’s potentially pivotal Discount Tire Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. Two drivers, Lochie Hughes, from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, and Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., have distanced themselves from the pack and remain locked in combat for the Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to move on to USF Pro 2000 in 2024.

The two protagonists are currently separated by just three points. Each has earned seven podium finishes from the opening 10 races. Jay Howard Driver Development’s Hughes has the edge on wins, four to three, while Pabst Racing’ Sikes has accumulated more pole positions, four to two. Both drivers have enjoyed success previously at Mid-Ohio. Sikes secured three podium finishes during a budgetary constrained partial USF2000 season in 2021, while Hughes won once last year on his way to the United States F4 Championship powered by Honda.

VRD Racing teammates Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla., and Sam Corry, from Cornelius, N.C., as well as Canadian Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) have won one race apiece after stepping up this year from USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires. Johnson and Clark, the 2022 USF Juniors champion and winner of an advancement scholarship valued at over $220,000, gained some valuable USF2000 experience last year, which has certainly accelerated their progress in 2023, although Corry seems to have experienced more than his fair share of misfortune during his rookie campaign.

A pair of young Ohioans also will garner much attention this weekend. Fifteen-year-old Evagoras Papasavvas, from Loveland, Ohio, has scored a trio of podium finishes for Jay Howard Driver Development. Thomas Schrage, from Bethel, Ohio, is set to make an eagerly anticipated USF2000 debut with Exclusive Autosport.

Schrage, 18, dominated the 2022 FRP F1600 Championship Series with nine wins. He also broadened his horizons by competing in several Kenyon Midget oval track events, winning twice, and secured a fourth-place finish at the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, after earning a coveted Team USA Scholarship.

Logan Adams (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Greenfield, Ind., and USF Juniors regulars Brady Golan (DEForce Racing), from Austin, Texas, and Carson Etter (DC Autosport), from Villa Park, Calif., also are looking forward to gaining their first experience of USF2000 this weekend.

Almost two hours of testing on Thursday will be followed by half-an-hour of practice at 8:45 a.m. on Friday. A busy schedule will continue with a critical single period of qualifying at 11:10 a.m., which will help determine the grid order for all three races, the first of which will see a green flag later in the afternoon at 4:40 p.m. Two more races are set for Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Full coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and respective series’ websites.
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