Good Call, Great Driving Snares Toronto USF2000 Win for Sikes
 July 15, 2023| 
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TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Simon Sikes this afternoon padded his lead in the USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires points table by virtue of a spectacular victory on the streets around Exhibition Place. But there is a lot more to the story than just that. While strategic calls and pit stops don’t usually play a significant role on the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires driver development ladder, they certainly did today as the 20-lap race began on a damp track which quickly dried out.

Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., was among the first to make a pit stop for dry-weather tires, called in at the completion of the second lap by his Pabst Racing team when the race was already under a full-course caution due to an incident on the opening lap.

Sikes, aided by another full-course caution, made his way expertly to the front with six laps remaining. Teammate Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla., emerged from the pack to finish second, with newcomer and former karter Logan Adams, from Greenfield, Ind., claiming an equally impressive third for Jay Howard Driver Development.

The race did not begin auspiciously for Sikes, who yesterday had qualified a disappointing sixth. Instead it was Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, who started at the front after claiming his second career Cooper Tires Pole Award.

Fellow 15-year-old Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing), from Gulfport, Fla., charged to the front on the first lap, which ended under caution due to an incident in Turn Four. With the track already nearly dry following an earlier rain shower, a couple of drivers immediately ducked into the pit lane for slick Cooper tires. Next time around, with the field still under yellow, six more cars pitted for dries, including Sikes and fellow title contender Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), from nearby Milton, Ont.

Sikes hadn’t yet closed up to the rear of the train of cars that had elected to stay on wet tires by the time the track went back to green, but it wasn’t long before he and Clark soon began to close that gap.

Johnson, meanwhile, continued to lead from Papasavvas, who lost second place just after the halfway point to debutant Nico Christodoulou. The Toronto native’s VRD Racing team had been the first to make the call to change tires.

Moments later, another incident involving teammate Gordon Scully, from Chicago, Ill., ensured another caution. This time Papasavvas and, one lap later, Johnson, elected to change tires.  They resumed eighth and 11th.

Christodoulou led at the restart, but Sikes, who had earlier been passed by Clark, was on a mission. Sikes firstly outbraked the first of the Canadians with a bold move around the outside at Turn Three on Lap 14 to take over second place. Next time around, he repeated the maneuver on Christodoulou and never looked back as he went on to claim his fifth win of the season and second in succession.

The battle for second looked likely to be settled between the two Canadians, Christodoulou and Clark, but Garcia had other ideas. Clark had followed Sikes past his countryman, taking second position at Turn Five, but after one final restart, with two laps remaining, Garcia left his braking for Turn Three extremely late and Clark had little option but to cede the position. Clark also lost out to a close-following Adams and Christodoulou, although he managed to repass his local rival on the final lap to regain fourth.

Adams, taking part in just his second USF2000 weekend, earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after lining up 13th on the starting grid.

Augie Pabst took home another PFC Award as the winning car owner. His joy was compounded by the fact that Garcia’s second-place finish moved his team within eight points of Jay Howard Driver Development in the battle for the Team Championship.

Sikes’ glorious day leaves him with a commanding 56-point lead in the championship with only four races remaining. Australian Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), who had previously taken the fight to Sikes, slipped to third in points after clipping a wall and retiring from the race. Sikes will have another opportunity to extend his advantage bright and early tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. EDT having earned the pole position following a separate qualifying session earlier today.

Provisional championship points after 14 of 18 races:
1. Simon Sikes, 341
2. Nikita Johnson, 286
3. Lochie Hughes, 277
4. Mac Clark, 266
5. Evagoras Papasavvas, 251
6. Chase Gardner, 189
7. Sam Corry, 176
8. Jorge Garciarce, 167
9. Max Garcia, 166
10. Jacob Douglas, 141

Simon Sikes (#22 Big Check Race Fans/Doug Mockett & Company/ Racing Tatuus USF-22): “I don’t even know where to start! It started in wet conditions. I played it a bit too safe in the first qually (qualifying session), so I started sixth and was just trying to work my way forward to a podium. That was my end goal for this race, but we got out there and we got under this first Safety Car period and the team called me in for slick tires. I was questioning it, I didn’t know if it would work, but ultimately that was the best call anyone could have made. (Canadian race engineer) Burke Harrison did such a fantastic job. He and Augie Pabst, the whole Pabst organization made this one happen. They made the strategy call that ended up winning the race and gave me a perfect car to go execute, so huge thanks to them, and Doug Mockett for being an awesome supporter. Just really happy to take away a Pabst one-two to start off the races in Toronto.”

Max Garcia(#24 Advance Auto Parts-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “Wow, it was a really fun race. You know, started out on wets and we had decent pace on wets and then the first caution came out and I decided not to give up track position and keep it going. And then when I saw all those slick-tires guys get past us, I knew, next yellow, we had to pit. A yellow came out at Turn Eight and I boxed (pitted) immediately. I got up to fifth at the restart, I think we had two green laps, and then it went yellow again and I knew that was my chance. It was pretty crazy with the double-pass into Turn Three”.

Logan Adams (#9 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil Products/LHP-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-22): “I never expected my first podium to come from 13th (on the grid), especially my second weekend in the USF car, but it was a blast. I love driving the car, I love the series, the team. Jay Howard obviously got the car dialed in. We made the smart move to go to slicks early. I wouldn’t be here without my sponsors, Comet Kart Sales and New Castle Motorsports Park, they’ve brought me to where I’m at today and I can’t thank them enough.” 
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