USF2000 Champ Sikes Signs Off in Style with Portland Win
PORTLAND, Ore. – Simon Sikes this evening capped an almost perfect weekend for Pabst Racing at Portland International Raceway by recording his sixth win of the season. Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., on Friday clinched the USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown, as well as a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to ensure graduation to the next step on the open-wheel ladder, USF Pro 2000, in 2024. A one-two finish yesterday also secured a fifth Team Championship since 2017 for Augie Pabst’s eponymous organization based in Oconomowoc, Wis.
New Zealand teenager Jacob Douglas couldn’t quite complete a weekend sweep of the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Portland, but still finished comfortably clear of VRD Racing’s Sam Corry, from Cornelius, N.C., a winner earlier this year at Indianapolis, who earned a long overdue podium result in third.
Pabst Racing once again led the field to the green today with Douglas having secured his third straight Cooper Tires Pole Award ahead of Sikes and 14-year-old Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla.
But it was Sikes who won the start, slicing confidently around the outside line in Turn One at the notorious Festival Curves chicane before assuming the inside line, and the lead, in Turn Two. The two Pabst cars were once again clearly the class of the field as they immediately romped away from their pursuers.
Douglas dropped back a little during the middle stages of the 25-lap, all-green race before closing in again during the final stages. Sikes, though, was unmoved as he took the checkered flag 0.6653 of a second ahead of his teammate and earned an eighth PFC Award of the year for Augie Pabst as the winning team owner.
Corry executed a bold move at the first corner to vault from eighth on the grid to third. He maintained that position until the finish despite the best efforts of Thomas Schrage, from Bethel, Ohio, who bounced back strongly from disappointing results on Friday and Saturday. Schrage, who had been fastest of all during the Thursday test day, had been obliged to switch to Exclusive Autosport’s backup car following difficulties in each of the first few races, but he adapted quickly and pressured Corry all the way to the checkered flag.
Corry’s drive earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
After losing a couple of positions during the first few laps, Garcia chased Schrage gamely despite intense pressure from Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas, from Loveland, Ohio.
Nikita Johnson also impressed – once again – for VRD Racing. Moments after briefly celebrating victory in the preceding USF Pro 2000 race, Johnson, 15, from Gulfport, Fla., strapped himself aboard VRD Racing’s No. 17 USF2000 Tatuus and lined up sixth on the grid. Johnson found himself odd man out at the Festival Curves, forced into the escape road as teammate Corry scythed through from behind, whereupon Johnson charged from the back of the pack to seventh at the finish, only a couple of seconds behind Papasavvas.
Another highly successful USF Pro Championships season will be formally wrapped up tomorrow evening at the traditional Championship Celebration in Portland. The focus then will switch toward the 2024 season, starting with the annual two-day USF Pro Fall Combine Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on October 21/22.
Provisional championship points after 18 of 18 races:
1. Simon Sikes, 447
2. Nikita Johnson, 344
3. Lochie Hughes, 335
4. Evagoras Papasavvas, 323
5. Mac Clark, 318
6. Jacob Douglas, 249
7. Sam Corry, 222
8. Jorge Garciarce, 212
9. Max Garcia, 207
10. Chase Gardner, 193
Simon Sikes (#22 Big Check Race Fans/Doug Mockett & Company/Group6Gear.com-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a great race. First of all, congrats to Jacob. He got the first two (wins) and we had a great race. I think we disappeared from everyone, but he kept the pressure on all race and didn’t make it easy at all. What a way to cap off the season with Pabst Racing – another one-two and I can’t tell you how much that means to us, the team and everybody here. On the championship weekend, it just means so much more. A big thanks to all my supporters. I couldn’t have done it without them. It was a whole group effort and I think we showed our strength this weekend.”
Jacob Douglas (#23 JDM Properties-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “I didn’t have a great start and fell back to second at the first corner. I was pulling away with Simon the whole race and we were pretty close. A massive thanks to everyone at Pabst. They gave me an amazing car and I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity in the second half of the season. I am looking forward to next year.”
Sam Corry (#14 Red Line Oil/Fill-Rite/Stilo Helmets-VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a good race and definitely very difficult today. The drivers behind us were making it hard and I was just pushing with the guys on the radio saying ‘two back, three back, keep pushing.’ I was really just trying to hit my marks as best as I could. Once I got to about five (laps) to go, the team came on the radio and said bring that horse home so that’s what I did. I can’t thank the VRD boys enough. They put together such a good race car. It has been an up and down season, but it is good to end on a high note and go into next year wanting more.”