Source: Series PR
SEBRING, Fla. – The traditional two-day Spring Training test session held in advance of a new season for the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel racing development ladder began today in hospitably warm and sunny conditions at Sebring International Raceway. Two of the three series were in action on the historic 3.74-mile airfield circuit in central Florida, with Exclusive Autosport’s Joey Brienza, from Golden, Colo., topping the charts in USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires and Myles Rowe, from New York, N.Y. turning the fastest time for Pabst Racing with Force Indy in USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires.
Today provided the first official outing for the new Halo-equipped Tatuus JR-23 cars, which will debut this year on the first rung on the ladder. After a trio of 45-minute sessions, Brienza, 18, emerged with the fastest lap of the day at 2:11.964, an average speed of 102.028 mph.
“Today was good,” said Brienza, who opted to skip the third and final session. “I am really happy with it. Obviously it speaks highly to the team when you have a new package and can come out of the gates running. It also speaks highly to USF Pro Championships as well that they can create a great package that teams can work well with. From driving it, it feels very similar to the USF2000 so I’m really happy with that. It is a great package and this was definitely a positive day. We made some great strides forward and I can’t wait to start the season.”
Brazilian Nicolas Giaffone, whose father Felipe raced Indy cars in the early 2000s, winning at Kentucky Speedway, displayed promising pace by posting the fastest time in two of the three sessions, with a best of 2:12.009 at the end of the day for DEForce Racing.
Teammate Quinn Armstrong, from Newcastle, Australia, was third fastest on the day at 2:12.066, narrowly ahead of Ethan Ho (DC Autosport), from Los Angeles, Calif., and Jimmie Lockhart (VRD Racing), from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
An extremely competitive field of 20 USF Pro 2000 cars – the largest since 2014 – saw the top two contenders in each of two 45-minute sessions turning times within one tenth of a second of each other, with Rowe, who is stepping up the ladder after finishing a close second in last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, narrowly edging out DEForce Racing’s Kiko Porto, from Recife, Brazil.
Rowe’s time of 1:59.207, an average speed of 112.946 mph, was just 0.058 of a second clear of Porto, who finished seventh in the title-chase last year after winning the USF2000 Championship in 2021.
“Today was amazing,” said an excited Rowe. “I am super blessed to be in the USF Pro 2000 Championship for a full season thanks to Penske Entertainment. We came out of the box swinging and hopefully we will do the same in St. Petersburg next weekend [for the first two races of the season]. It is looking good judging by how today has gone. I am happy the sun is shining, and everyone is here happy and healthy.”
TJ Speed Motorsports made an impressive debut as Germany’s Lirim Zendeli posted the fastest time during this afternoon’s session, in warmer conditions, at 1:59.451, merely 0.021 faster than teammate and fellow rookie Francesco Pizzi, from Rome, Italy.
Jordan Missing (Pabst Racing), from Channahon, Ill., completed the top five overall ahead of 2022 USF2000 champion Michael d’Orlando (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Hartsdale, N.Y., and Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing),from Scottsdale, Ariz.
The top seven were all blanketed by just 0.337 of a second.
The USF Pro 2000 contenders will have two more sessions tomorrow, when they will be joined by drivers on the middle rung of the ladder, USF2000.