USF Pro Championships scheduled for Spring Training at NOLA

By | February 24, 2024

A new season of major open-wheel racing in North America is fast approaching. In two weeks, on March 8 and 10, the NTT IndyCar Series will take to the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida for its opening race. And as usual, there will be a full supporting cast covering two of the three levels of the world-famous USF Pro Championships Presented by Continental Tire.

Interest in the crucial proving ground categories is reaching record levels. Accordingly, no fewer than 65 young drivers from 11 nationalities will be in attendance when USF Pro Championships hosts the traditional two-day Spring Training test for all three series on Monday and Tuesday, February 26-27 at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La All have their eyes firmly focused on securing a share of the $1.68 million in scholarship prizes and awards that will be handed out at the season-ending banquet in late August in Portland, Oregon.

Veterans, rookies ready for the USF Pro 2000 test

A dozen USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire rookies will be joined by eight series veterans when testing begins next week on the 4.44-mile, 13-turn course just a few miles from downtown New Orleans.

Entry list

After capturing last year’s USF2000 Championship and earning a scholarship worth more than $433,000 to advance to the next level, Simon Sikes leads the rookie contingent with an eye on becoming the second driver in three years to win back-to-back titles in the USF2000 and USF Pro 2000. Rasmussen, who achieved this feat in 2020 and 2021, will appear on the NTT IndyCar Series grid this year with Ed Carpenter Racing. Sikes, from Augusta, Georgia, will remain with Pabst Racing, which also claimed the USF Pro 2000 crown last year with Myles Rowe.

The rookie contingent also includes the second and third place finishers in the 2023 USF2000 title chase – Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing), of Gulfport, Florida, and Australian Lochie Hughes (Turn 3 Motorsport) – as well as Canadian Mac Clark (DEForce Racing ), who won the first USF Juniors title in 2022.

With several of last year’s top scorers climbing the ladder to INDY NXT, including Rowe – who becomes the sixth consecutive USF Pro 2000 champion to advance – Arizonan Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing) is the highest-ranked returner. He is joined in the Pabst Racing stable by Christian Brooks of Los Angeles, California, who won once despite only four starts in 2023.

Braden Eves will also re-enter the fray with a point to prove. Eves, the 2019 USF2000 Champion, finished second in the 2021 USF Pro 2000 season and now returns to the Exclusive Autosport team after a one-year hiatus.

USF2000 field wide open

A similar mix of drivers with varying experience levels makes up the entry list for USF2000 presented by Continental Tire. Once again, many of the 2023 key players have graduated to the next level, USF Pro 2000, leaving Ohioan Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), who finished fourth last year, and Sam Corry, who finished the year seventh in points. as the early favorites to chase a championship purse worth $458,400.

Entry list

Corry, from Cornelius, NC, has joined defending champion team Pabst Racing alongside returning driver Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Florida, who at just 13 years old was not old enough to compete in the opening event of the 2023 season in St. Petersburg. But Garcia quickly established himself as a regular contender for the honor.

Hudson Schwartz, of Arlington, Virginia, also 14, will round out the Pabst lineup after winning the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series Championship last year and finishing eighth in USF Juniors despite not competing in the inaugural event of the season.

Other notable returning drivers include Joey Brienza, race winner at USF Juniors, Exclusive Autosport teammate Thomas Schrage, winner of the 2022 FRP Formula 1600 Championship Series and a prestigious Team USA Scholarship recipient who impressed in a handful of outings last year, and Indianapolis, Ind., born Elliot Cox, who returns with the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development team after shining several times in 2023.

Third-generation Brazilian racer Nicolas Giaffone looks set to shine among the rookie contingent after comfortably capturing the USF Juniors crown with DEForce Racing last year. Others to watch include Giaffone’s teammate Quinn Armstrong of Newcastle, Australia, who was vice-champion at USF Juniors last year, Michael Costello, a standout in the F4 United States Championship for Jay Howard Driver Development, and 2023 Team USA Scholarship winner Ayrton Houk. of McCordsville, Ind., who has joined DC Autosport after two strong seasons in F1600.

Field record set for USF Juniors

Young Texan Jack Jeffers will enter the new USF Juniors Presented by Continental Tire season as one of the heavy favorites to secure a $263,500 scholarship to advance to USF2000 in 2025.

Entry list

Jeffers, 17, established his pedigree by winning the 2022 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series title. He then finished a strong third in his rookie USF Juniors campaign, which delivered three wins and cemented his reputation by winning four of the six races at the recent YACademy Winter Series in Florida for the Exclusive Autosport team.

But Jeffers is unlikely to have it all his way with a record 28 cars arriving in Louisiana. New Jersey’s Max Taylor returns to VRD Racing after taking one win last year, while a stellar crop of rookies will include Floridians Sebastian Wheldon and Augusto Soto-Schirripa and British talent Liam McNeilly.

Wheldon, son of the late two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, will make his long-awaited move to USF Juniors after an impressive career in junior karting and last year’s Skip Barber Formula Car Series victory, which earned him a $20 scholarship. 100,000 yielded. Wheldon, who won one YACademy Winter Series race at Sebring, will be part of a strong contingent from the VRD Racing stable.

Soto-Schirripa has also made his mark in open-wheel junior racing. Last year he arrived late on the scene in F4, winning four of eight races to finish third in the championship in a partial season for the InterMS team. McNeilly, from London, England, was a multiple race winner and podium finisher in the 2023 GB4 Championship, finishing third in the standings.

A full schedule of on-track activities and live timing is available on the three series’ websites – usfpro2000.com, usf2000.com and usfjuniors.com – as well as on the USF Pro Championships app.

The story originally appeared on Racer

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