Carb Night Classic Up Next for USF Pro Championships
 May 20, 2024| 
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Additional Points Haul Available for Season’s Lone Oval Event

PALMETTO, Fla. – While all eyes have been on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and preparations for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500, the attention of drivers in USF Pro Championships Presented by Continental Tire will switch this week to nearby Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. The .686-mile oval will host the traditional Carb Night Classic on Friday, May 24.

For over half the drivers entered, the evening will mark their first taste of oval racing. And with one-and-a-half times points on offer for the Freedom 90 for USF Pro 2000 and Freedom 75 for USF2000, it is a pivotal round on the 2024 schedule.

In addition to the top-two levels of the open-wheel driver development ladder, the evening will feature the 71st Anniversary Hoosier Hundred, a highlight of the USAC Silver Crown Series docket, and a 30-lap National Pavement Midget Championship feature.

The usual two-day event for USF Pro 2000 and USF2000 has been expanded to three this year to accommodate two test sessions on Wednesday. An Oval Clinic featuring insight from race-winning driver turned team owner Bryan Herta, INDYCAR race winner and INDY NXT broadcaster Charlie Kimball and USF Pro Championships graduate and Indianapolis 500 starter RC Enerson will precede additional testing on Thursday with single-car qualifying to be held later in the afternoon.

Friday’s action-packed evening will kick off with the Silver Crown race at 7:15 pm EDT followed by USF2000 at 8:30 pm, USF Pro 2000 at 9:30 pm and Midgets at 10:30 pm. Full live streaming coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and the respective series’ websites.

Johnson Heads Tight USF Pro 2000 Field
Five different drivers have emerged victorious from the opening eight rounds of USF Pro 2000 competition, but only one has multiple wins on his resume. Nikita Johnson, the Gulfport, Fla., driver who will celebrate his 16th birthday on Saturday, has four to his credit with VRD Racing. That number would have been five had it not been for a post-race penalty issued after Race 2 of the Indianapolis Grand Prix earlier this month (see below).

Johnson enters the event with a 24-point lead at 172, but is followed by a close contingent of race winners comprising TJ Speed Motorsports’ Hunter Yeany, from Virginia Beach, Va., at 148, Turn 3 Motorsport’s Lochie Hughes, from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, at 144 and Yeany’s teammate Liam Sceats, from Auckland, New Zealand, at 136.

The Pabst Racing trio of Christian Brooks, Jace Denmark and Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., also lurk within striking distance. Denmark, who lives in nearby Brownsburg, Ind., is one of only four drivers in the field with prior USF Pro 2000 experience on the tricky oval, although Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., has twice finished among the top five in USF2000 competition and Sikes, who claimed his maiden USF Pro 2000 victory a few weeks ago on the Indianapolis road course, finished on the podium last year at IRP on his way to winning the USF2000 championship.

Canadian Mac Clark also has fond memories of the oval after claiming a dominant USF2000 victory last year for DEForce Racing. The 2022 USF Juniors champion seeks to bounce back from a desperately disappointing weekend on the road course earlier this month when he failed to finish in all three races.

The field will be bolstered this week by INDY NXT regular Bryce Aron, from Winnetka, Ill., who is set to compete on an oval for the first time by making his USF Pro 2000 debut aboard a third TJ Speed Motorsports entry.

Sceats Declared Indy Winner after VRD Penalty
Following a review by Andersen Promotions technical staff, a post-race penalty was issued to VRD Racing for Race 2 of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis which took place on Saturday, May 11.

VRD Racing was found to be in violation of Rule 12.1.1 which specifies: “All components provided by Andersen Promotions, an authorized Manufacturer or supplier, must be used without modification unless otherwise stated in these Rules, the Technical manual or in update bulletins.”

With the disqualification of VRD’s Johnson, Sceats of TJ Speed Motorsports has been credited with the win. Hughes (Turn 3 Motorsport) and Denmark (Pabst Racing) round out the revised podium.

Garcia Looks to Extend USF2000 Points Lead
Max Garcia and Evagoras Papasavvas currently hold first and second places in the quest for the USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship and a scholarship valued at $458,400 to graduate to USF Pro 2000 in 2025. They also have a healthy advantage over the vast majority of their rivals this week by virtue of their previous USF2000 experience at IRP.

Garcia, 15, from Coconut Grove, Fla., finished seventh in the corresponding race one year ago and currently holds a commanding 40-point edge by virtue of winning four of the opening seven races of the season for Pabst Racing.

But fellow teenager Papasavvas, from Loveland, Ohio, has high expectations of narrowing that deficit, especially after finishing a strong second last year for the locally based Jay Howard Driver Development team. Papasavvas is still seeking his first victory of the season after beginning his campaign with a sequence of five podium finishes.

Indianapolis native Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), Sam Corry (Pabst Racing), from Cornelius, N.C., Maxwell Jamieson (DEForce Racing), from Houston, Texas, and Exclusive Autosport’s Joey Brienza, from Golden, Colo., are the only other drivers who have previous USF2000 experience at the venue.

However, another local driver, Ayrton Houk, is looking forward to his first USF2000 oval race. In addition to coming off a career-best fourth-place finish on the Indianapolis road course, both for himself and Don Conner’s DC Autosport team, Houk, from McCordsville, Ind., has plenty of oval track experience in a very different form as a previous winner of the (Mel) Kenyon Midget Series.

Others to watch will include VRD Racing’s Max Taylor, from Hoboken, N.J., who has already tasted the fruits of success in 2024 with a win at the Indianapolis road course and three consecutive podium finishes.

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