Sikes, Hughes Split Road America USF2000 Wins
 June 18, 2023| 
  • Series News

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires title rivals Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, and Simon Sikes (Pabst Racing), from Augusta, Ga., shared the victory spoils in today’s Discount Tire Grand Prix of Road America. Coincidentally, both had some form of trouble in one of the races.

Hughes encountered a problem with his car in the opening race and later was assessed a five-second penalty for blocking, which dropped him from 10th to 12th, while Sikes placed 10th in Race Two following some on-track skirmishes. Consequently, Hughes’ slender points lead has diminished by one, from four points to three, heading into the second half of the season.

Jacob Douglas (Pabst Racing), from Christchurch, New Zealand, scored a career-best second-place finish this morning ahead of VRD Racing’s Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla. After starting from pole position in Race Two, Mac Clark, from Milton, Ont., Canada, finished second ahead of 14-year-old Max Garcia (Pabst Racing), from Coconut Grove, Fla.

Hughes began the weekend in emphatic style during qualifying on Friday by securing his second Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season, and his first since the opening round on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in early March. The Australian teenager took full advantage of the pristine new track surface on the challenging 4.014-mile circuit by posting a new lap record of 2:07.8964, an average speed of 112.985 mph. His time comfortably eclipsed the old standard of 2:09.2583 set by Rasmus Lindh in 2018.

A clean start saw Hughes maintain his advantage for the first half-lap ahead of Sikes and the rest of the closely matched pack. Unfortunately, Hughes then made a mistake under pressure at Turn Six and ran wide, which immediately cost him a couple of positions to Sikes and Clark.

An incident at Turn One on the second lap ensured a full-course caution with Sikes at the head of the field, where he was to remain for the remainder of the 12-lap race. Sikes had to withstand challenges at no fewer than three restarts following a series of minor incidents before racing clear to score his third win of the season and briefly retake the championship points lead.

Hughes regained one of his lost places by slicing past Clark at Turn Five at the first restart, only to slide wide again at Turn Six and lose several positions after his rear wing collapsed. Hughes stopped to have the wing reattached and did well to climb back to 10th at the finish prior to the penalty.

Clark fell out of contention after being one among three drivers who attempted to run side-by-side through Turn Five following one of the restarts. He, too, resumed at the back but did gain the consolation of a new lap record, 2:09.1655, on the final lap.

The drama allowed New Zealander Jacob Douglas, who celebrated his 18th birthday earlier in the week, to emerge in a clear second place in his first outing for the locally based Pabst Racing team.

Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing), from Gulfport, Fla., impressively overcame some problems in qualifying by rising from 12th on the grid to complete the podium in third. Johnson’s fine drive earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Chase Gardner (Exclusive Autosport), from Prosper, Texas, and Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), from Indianapolis, Ind., also took advantage of the incident-packed race to round out the top five after starting deep in the pack.

The action continued later in the afternoon with Clark, last year’s USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires champion, on pole position after claiming the Cooper Tires Pole Award, his second of the year, during a second dedicated qualifying session on Friday.

Clark held onto his advantage through a couple of early full-course cautions, but there was no holding back Hughes, who made up for his earlier disappointment by drafting past into the lead at the beginning of Lap Eight. Clark never gave up the chase but had to settle for second ahead of young Garcia, who atoned for an error in Race One by snaring his first podium result.

This time it was Pabst teammate Sikes’ turn to have difficulties. After running third in the early stages, Sikes was involved in a couple of skirmishes before finally taking the checkered flag a disappointed 10th.

Jorge Garciarce (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, Mexico, took a career-best fourth ahead of Johnson.

USF Junior regular Jack Jeffers, from San Antonio, Texas, capped an exploratory USF2000 outing with Exclusive Autosport by claiming the Tilton Hard Charger Award after finishing 12th and making up nine positions during the 12-lap race.

For the third time this season the PFC Awards for the winning car owners were split by Augie Pabst and Jay Howard.

Next on the agenda for the USF2000 competitors is a triple-header event, once again held in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, in two weeks’ time on June 30/July 1.

Provisional championship points after 10 of 18 races:
1. Lochie Hughes, 249
2. Simon Sikes, 246
3. Nikita Johnson, 209
4. Mac Clark, 172
5. Evagoras Papasavvas, 159
6. Chase Gardner, 136
7. Jorge Garciarce, 133
8. Danny Dyszelski, 113
9. Sam Corry, 111
10. Jacob Douglas, 111

Race 1:

Simon Sikes (#22 Big Check Race Fans/Doug Mockett & Company/ Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a fun race. Starting second, I was able to get the lead on the first lap into Turn Six and from there, it was just about trying to hold on to that position. We had several restarts, all of which were all about heavy defending and trying to maintain that lead. Once we got down to the last restart, it was a fun cruise to the end and I was appreciating the awesome Wisconsin scenery. I am so thankful to win at home for Pabst and the first weekend racing with Mockett on the car.”

Jacob Douglas (#23 JDM Properties-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a great race. I managed to avoid all the chaos after starting P6. A big thanks to Pabst Racing for accommodating me this weekend. It’s been a great first weekend with them. The car has been on rails all weekend. A massive congrats to Simon as well. I am looking forward to the rest of the season with them.”

Nikita Johnson (#17 Allen Exploration, LLC/Walker’s Cay-VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “We started 12th after a not-so-great qualifying. I worked my way through the field. A lot of the yellows helped me, but I made some pretty good passes going three wide. I just worked my way up and kept my head down. Our #17 VRD Racing/Walker’s Cay car was on rails. All of those cautions really helped me and I am happy to get third place and really good points for the championship.”

Race 2:

Lochie Hughes (#8 JHDD/CSU One Cure/Lucas Oil Products/LHP-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus USF-22): “It was a pretty good race. I was able to jump up to second at the start before the safety cars. I got a great restart and just sent it around the outside of Mac. I wasn’t sure how much grip there would be with the resurface but I thought stuff it, go for it. I was in the lead and then another safety car again, but I got a good restart and managed to hold the lead. Then it was just about trying to break the tow which I couldn’t really do so Mac was always right there. It was critical to make no mistakes and just hold the gap I had and win the race and that’s what I did.”

Mac Clark (#1 USF Pro Championships/Valkyrie AI/ARM/Clubine Motorsports-DEForce Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It’s a good day when you are disappointed with P2. We had a really strong car. The guys did a really good job with giving us a fast package this weekend. I put it on pole which was really nice. It was just a smart race making sure I didn’t take any risks after this morning where we didn’t have very good luck. To get a nice chunk of points and put us back into that championship scene is nice. We are going to keep working hard. Mid-Ohio is up next and I really like that place. We won there last year so we’ll keep pushing.”

Max Garcia (#24 Advance Auto Parts-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It started off good, running P4 behind Simon, Lochie and Mac in the beginning. And then Simon got shuffled off after the restart and I made my way up to third. On the second restart, I had such a massive run that I had to go to the outside and got a big oversteer moment and it kind of set me back and Jorge was able to come up my inside. I was really chasing the whole race and I think I put fastest lap at some point. Jorge made a mistake coming out of Turn Three and I was able to clear him going into Turn Five. I almost got those guys right at the end.”

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