Sweet Redemption at Mid-Ohio for USF2000 Points Leader Sikes
 July 2, 2023| 
  • Series News
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Simon Sikes displayed impressive speed during this weekend’s Discount Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. And finally, yesterday evening on the challenging 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., was able to parlay that pace into a dominant USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires race win, his fourth of the season for Pabst Racing.

With Sikes long gone in the lead, the main interest in the concluding race of the weekend was focused on a thrilling battle for second place. Saturday morning race winner Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), from Milton, Ont., Canada, held the position for almost the entire 20-lap distance, only to fall victim to an audacious pass in Turn Two on the final lap by 15-year-old Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing), from Gulfport, Fla.

Sikes once again started from the pole position, courtesy of having earned his series leading sixth Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season, and was never seriously challenged. The race once again was interrupted by a couple of early full-course cautions, but over the final 14 laps of green-flag racing, Sikes extended his advantage on each and every lap. His eventual winning margin was a whopping (by USF2000 standards) 10.3110 seconds.

Once the race settled down, Clark, who started second, found himself under constant pressure from Johnson, with Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, and Sam Corry (VRD Racing), from Cornelius, N.C., also in close attendance.

As the race entered its final phase, Clark, last year’s USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires champion, seemed to have weathered the storm. But Johnson, who also graduated this year from USF Juniors, had been biding his time. The young Floridian intensified his charge with a couple of laps remaining, then went for a bold outside pass at the notoriously tricky Keyhole corner. It worked to perfection.

Clark, to his credit, gave Johnson just enough room and the youngster took full advantage, nosing ahead on the exit of the corner and making second place his own. The results meant that Johnson became tied for second in the points table with Australian Lochie Hughes, whose Jay Howard Driver Development team worked wonders to repair his badly damaged Tatuus USF-22 following a major accident earlier in the day, only for it to grind agonizingly to a halt on the pace lap.

Hughes’ teammate Papasavvas capped a breakthrough weekend with a fourth-place finish to add to his Friday win and second-place finish earlier on Saturday. Corry followed closely in fifth, just ahead of Chase Gardner (Exclusive Autosport), from Prosper, Texas, and Max Garcia (Pabst Racing), from Coconut Grove, Fla.

A little farther back, Thomas Schrage (Exclusive Autosport), from Bethel, Ohio, capped his debut USF2000 weekend with another strong race. Schrage didn’t have the results he perhaps deserved after posting the second fastest time during testing on Thursday, but he did earn his third successive Tilton Hard Charger Award after steering clear of trouble and rising from 19th on the grid to ninth.

The PFC Award for the winning car owner was claimed by Augie Pabst, whose delight was heightened by the fact that his title aspirant, Sikes, now holds a nice cushion of 40 points in the quest for a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 as the series heads next to the streets around Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ont., Canada for two races on July 15-16.

Provisional championship points after 13 of 18 races:
1. Simon Sikes, 311
2. Lochie Hughes, 271
3. Nikita Johnson, 271
4. Mac Clark, 246
5. Evagoras Papasavvas, 235
6. Chase Gardner, 176
7. Sam Corry, 164
8. Jorge Garciarce, 160
9. Max Garcia, 141
10. Max Dyszelski, 141

Simon Sikes (#22 Big Check Race Fans/Doug Mockett & Company/Group6Gear.com-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22):
“It was a great day here for Race Three at Mid-Ohio. The Pabst car, like always, was perfect. Burke Harrison did a great job on the engineering, Augie Pabst runs such a great organization and the car is just fast. To come and show all the pace we had, it was unfortunate to not get it done yet but Race Three proved to be our time and we were able to get that top spot by quite a margin. It felt really great for the team and it’s great points at the end of the day. Just a huge shoutout to Pabst and Doug Mockett for all the support this season.”

Nikita Johnson (#17 Allen Exploration, LLC/Walker’s Cay-VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “We started off P3. I went back to P4 after some stuff happened with Papasavvas on Lap 1. Then I managed to get back to third on that lap but some guys crashed and there was a caution. After that, I was fighting with Mac but he broke away because my tires overheated. I let them cool off and then pushed the last two laps really hard. He made a mistake in Turn Nine and I picked up some time from that. I went into [Turn] One, I was on his rear wing, went in to Turn Two and rolled it around on the outside and cleared him on the exit. I white-lined it going into Turn Four. He went on the outside and I went in really hard and kept second. Our #17 VRD Racing car was on rails. I wasn’t as fast as Simon but they have been the car to beat all weekend.”

Mac Clark (#1 USF Pro Championships/Valkyrie AI/ARM/Clubine Motorsports-DEForce Racing Tatuus USF-22):
“Solid race here at Mid-Ohio for the #1 DEForce racing machine. I didn’t quite manage to hold on to P2 at the end but lots of positives here moving into Toronto. I am pretty excited for the home race coming up.”

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