Strong USF Pro Championships Fields Set For Battle in St. Petersburg
 March 5, 2024| 
  • Series News
Giaffone Banner

PALMETTO, Fla. – A brand-new season for the USF Pro Championships open-wheel driver development ladder as well as a fresh new partnership with Continental Tire kicks off this weekend, March 8-10, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Both USF Pro 2000 and USF2000 have attracted strong fields with over 40 rising stars of the sport seeking to begin their bids for scholarship prizes to catapult them toward a future in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which also commences its 2024 season on the unforgiving streets.

In conjunction with the first step of the ladder, USF Juniors Presented by Continental Tire, which begins early next month with a triple-header at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La., scholarships and awards valued at $1.68 million are up for grabs at the end of the season to ensure the respective champions’ progression to the next level.

Large, Tight Field Set for USF Pro 2000 Opener
There are plenty of great storylines as a field of 22 USF Pro 2000 cars is set to contest two races this weekend on the challenging 1.8-mile, 14-turn downtown street circuit to comprise the Foundation Building Materials Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It is the largest entry for an opening round of the season since 2012. And also, one of the most competitive.

In terms of the depth of the competition, last year saw several long-standing records broken, including streaks for different race winners (six) and pole sitters (seven). No fewer than 18 different drivers claimed either a race win, a podium finish, a pole position or a fastest race lap during the 18-race campaign.

And judging by last week’s traditional Spring Training test at NOLA Motorsports Park, this season’s field seems to be equally strong, despite the fact that several of the top point-scorers last year have moved up the ladder to INDY NXT including Myles Rowe – who becomes the sixth consecutive USF Pro 2000 champion to advance.

The top 19 drivers were all separated by a fraction over one second on the 2.74-mile road course, led by Australian rookie Lochie Hughes, who finished third in a tightly contested USF2000 championship in 2023, including notching a race win in St. Petersburg. Turn 3 Motorsport teammates Adam Fitzgerald, from Galway, Ireland, Danny Dyszelski, from Belmont, N.C., and Ethan Ho, from Los Angeles, Calif., also were inside the top 10 on the combined scoring charts.

Five different teams also were represented among the top 10 in Spring Training: VRD Racing, BN Racing, TJ Speed Motorsports, DEForce Racing and defending series champion Pabst Racing.

Pabst’s Jace Denmark is the top returning driver from last year, placing seventh in the final title chase. Denmark, who recently moved from Arizona to Indiana, has plenty of good memories of St. Petersburg after winning a USF2000 race in 2022 and finishing on the podium last year in his first race after graduating into USF Pro 2000.

Teammates Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., and Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., also tend to shine in St. Petersburg. Sikes overcame a crash in qualifying to finish second last year, setting him on the path to win the USF2000 championship and a scholarship to ensure his progression in 2024, while Brooks swept the USF2000 weekend in 2021 and last year triumphed again at the next level, USF Pro 2000. His 2023 season was a partial one, but Brooks is back for a full season and with his eyes set firmly on the end-of-season scholarship.

Similarly, Nikita Johnson, from nearby Gulfport, Fla., will be hoping to repeat his USF2000 race win from last year as he steps up with VRD Racing after impressively winning two of the five USF Pro 2000 races he contested in preparation for this season.

After practice and qualifying on Friday, March 8, the pair of 25-lap USF Pro 2000 races will start at 11:55 a.m. EST on Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Pabst Hungry for More in USF2000
Four different teams have guided drivers to a USF2000 championship over the course of the last four years. One, Cape Motorsports, has moved up to INDY NXT, but the other three – Jay Howard Driver Development, DEForce Racing and Pabst Racing – all are back for more in 2024. Several other outfits also harbor legitimate hopes of continuing the streak of different championship-winners.

Even so, after claiming its long-awaited maiden driver’s title last year with Simon Sikes, Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing must start the new season as firm title favorite with three talented teenagers all focused on the big prize. Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla., was too young to race last year in St. Pete but impressed later in the season and, still only 14, topped the times during Spring Training last week in Louisiana. Sam Corry, 16, from Cornelius, N.C., earned his first win last year on the Indianapolis road course, while Hudson Schwartz, 14, from Arlington, Va., won the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series title and impressed during a partial season of USF Juniors.

Other likely contenders for The Andersen Companies Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend include Evagoras Papasavvas, Nicolas Giaffone, Nico Christodoulou and Joey Brienza.

Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, is the top returning driver after placing fourth in 2023 and securing his first win at his home track, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He also secured a podium finish last year in St. Petersburg.

DEForce Racing’s challenge will be headed by third-generation Brazilian racer Giaffone, who won the USF Juniors title in 2023, along with a $241,890 scholarship to progress to USF2000.

Canadian Christodoulou (VRD Racing) has spent most of the last few years competing in Europe, but played a starring role when he made a cameo USF2000 appearance on his home track, the streets of Toronto, last year where he took a fine victory. Teammate Max Taylor, from Hoboken, N.J., was second fastest at Spring Training, after displaying good form last year in a mixed season of USF2000 and USF Juniors, while Exclusive Autosport’s Joey Brienza, from Golden, Colo., showed consistently strong pace in Louisiana.

A condensed schedule for USF2000 will comprise practice, qualifying and the first of two 20-lap races on Friday, with the green flag set for 4:20 p.m. Race two will start at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Full coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and respective series’ websites, usfpro2000.com and usf2000.com.

  • 24-07-11-jhdd1
     7.11.24| 
    • Team News
  • 24-07-09-evagoras2
     7.10.24| 
    • Team News
  • Start(14) jpg
     7.7.24| 
    • Series News
  • usf2-race2
     7.6.24| 
    • Series News
  • usf2000_race1
     7.6.24| 
    • Series News