Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) is congratulated by mentor James Hinchcliffe after winning his third straight USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires race in a row. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Mac Clark stood on the top step of the USF Juniors podium for the third time in the last six days, making the DEForce Racing driver the sole series winner to date.

The 18-year-old has had a dream start to his 2022 USF Juniors campaign scoring 98 of a possible 99 points to build a 28-point championship lead.

“The DEForce Racing and Valkyrie team has given me such a good race car to start the season, said the pilot of the MIR Raceline USA/Sekanskin/Valkyrie AI sponsored No. 17. “I prepared myself all winter long, and the goal was to come out strong, and the goal was to win every race – but until I won the first three races, I had no idea of how it would go. Super thankful for everything that’s happened so far. I just want to build on that. The VRD cars are really fast, so it’s heads down tonight; look at the data, try to improve myself and work with my engineer, Carlos, to improve the car and try to extract the most we can for tomorrow’s race.”

After dominant victories in the first two races of the year, Clark faced a little more pressure in today’s Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of Alabama race #1.

Sam Corry waged a back and forth battle with his Velocity Racing Development teammate Nikita Johnson, ended up in second place, his third straight podium to start the season.

“It was a great race, said the 14-year-old. “I had a good start with Nikita, and we were both just trying to get close to Mac. I was catching Mac toward the end but made a mistake on the back section that really cost me. It’s awesome to race here, and this is one of the most beautiful tracks we’ll go to all season, but it’s a hard track to pass on. We’ll go back with the team and look at the data, but we know we have pace. The VRD cars are amazing; the team has done a great job, so we’ll get after it tomorrow.”

Corry, who started the race from the inside of the third row, was followed by his Velocity Racing Development teammates Johnson and Alessandro De Tullio.

Front row starter Andre Castro (International Motorsport) ended in fifth, his third straight top-five to start the season.

Front row starters Clark and Castro slowly brought the nine rows of two onto the Barber Motorsports Park front stretch before punching off for the run down to the quick left-handed Turn 1.

The green flag flies for the start of the first USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires race at Barber Motorsports Park Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Clark was the first driver to arrive at Turn 1, and the entire field raced cleanly through the first lap on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course.

The running order at the end of the first of 20 laps was Clark, Castro, Johnson, Corry, De Tullio, Noah Ping (Velocity Racing Development), Jeremy Fairburn (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), Ethan Ho (DC Autosport w/ Cape Motorsports), Jake Bonilla (DEForce Racing), Nicholas d’Orlando (DC Autosport w/ Cape Motorsports), Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), Earl W. Tucker, IV (DC Autosport w/ Cape Motorsports), Titus Sherlock (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), Bianca Bustamante (IGY6 Motorsports), David Burketh (Future Star Racing), Maxwell Jamieson (DEForce Racing), Jacob Bolen (IGY6 Motorsports) and Alan Isambard (International Motorsport).

On Lap 2, Sherlock came to pit road for repairs, falling down a lap to the field.

On Lap 3, Earl W. Tucker, IV spun in Turn 14 while running 14th. the Empire Paving/Equip Sales & Leasing Corp sponsored No. 24 from the DC Autosport w/ Cape Motorsports stable was able to continue, remaining on the lead lap.

On Lap 7, Corry and Johnson got around Castro for the final two spots on the podium.

Unlike the races five days ago, Clark could not quickly pull away, with Corry within a half-second of the leader.

Castro continued to fall down the running order over the next two laps, dropping two more spots to drop to sixth place.

On Lap 9, Corry lost the second spot when his Velocity Racing Development teammate Johnson moved to second place. That battle wasn’t over, though.

At the race’s halfway point, the running order was Clark, Johnson, Corry, De Tullio, Fairbairn, Castro, Ho, d’Orlando, Bonilla, Cox, Jamieson, Ping Burketh, Tucker IV, Ping, Bustamante, Sherlock, and Isambard.

Corry was able to get back by his teammate on Lap 14, swapping the second spot for the third time.

With five laps remaining, the gap between Clark and Corry had grown to 2.9 seconds, despite Corry, the driver of the Red Line Oil/Fill-Rite/Stilo Helmets sponsored No. 14, turning the quickest lap of the race four laps before.

Despite the growing gap out front, the battle for the final two spots on the podium was properly on, with only 0.7 seconds covering Corry, Johnson, and Fairbairn.

With two laps remaining, Fairbairn’s run at the podium ended when he and Johnson had an incident resulting in a broken front wing while the pair were fighting for the final spot on the podium. Race control quickly announced that the incident would be reviewed post-race.

“It was a good race and I had a good start. We were trying to run down Mac and I was really pushing,” said Johnson. “I had a good battle back and forth with Sam – he was really fast. I could see that he was able to catch Mac. We tried to stay in the chase but the car was lacking a bit at the end, and I made some mistakes. I had a fun battle with Alessandro and Andre late in the race and I succeeded in keeping them behind me. I can’t thank the whole VRD crew enough – and my parents, for always supporting me.”

At the front of the field, Corry was running laps quicker than the leader but ran out of time, crossing under the twin checkers 1.5 seconds adrift of Clark.

Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of Alabama unofficial race #1 results







Mac Clark

DEForce Racing



Sam Corry

Velocity Racing Development



Nikita Johnson

Velocity Racing Development



Alessandro De Tullio

Velocity Racing Development



Andre Castro

International Motorsport



Jeremy Fairbairn

Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports



Ethan Ho

DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports



Nicholas D’Orlando

DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports



Noah Ping

Velocity Racing Development



Jake Bonilla

DEForce Racing



Elliot Cox

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development



David Burketh

Future Star Racing



Earl Tucker

DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports



Maxwell Jamieson

DEForce Racing



Bianca Bustamante

IGY6 Motorsports



Titus Sherlock

Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports



Jacob Bolen

IGY6 Motorsports



Alan Isambard

International Motorsport