By Steve Wittich
The domination of Mac Clark and DEForce Racing continued in a historic inaugural USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires race. The Canadian driver who led testing, practice, and qualifying built a massive lead in the first of three Cooper Tires Grand Prix Of The Ozarks races.
“It was tricky,” said Clark to Rob Howden about the first lap. “We managed to open up a good gap, and after that, it was all about tire conservation and making sure we brought the car home with four wheels.
“I want to thank DEForce Racing for the mega fast car and putting this program together. ”
The recently turned 18-year-old joins Konrad Czaczyk (F4 United States Championship), Kyle Kirkwood (Formula Regional Americas Championship), Alan Lader (Formula Atlantic), Steve Miller (Indy Lights), Vince Puleo (USF2000), Brian Till (Barber Saab Pro), and Andreas Wirth (Formula BMW) on the list of drivers winning the first race of a North American junior open-wheel series.
The trip to victory lane is not Clark’s first of 2022. First, he drove to a win at NOLA Motorsports Park in the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda.
The Houston, Texas area DEForce Racing, led by David and Ernesto Martinez, has now won races in F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, Indy Pro 2000.
A pair of young Velocity Racing Development teammates – Nikita Johnson and Sam Corry – waged a close battle for the final two podium spots.
Johnson, still an eighth-grader and the youngest driver in the field at 13-years-old demonstrated race craft beyond his years, moving from his sixth starting spot to the second step on the inaugural USF Juniors podium.
Like his teammate, Corry, a 14-year-old, ended in his first official race in cars on the podium.
“It was a great race,” said a happy resident of
Cornelius, N.C. “I kept my nose clean the whole time. Nikita drove a great race there, getting me at the end. I wish we could have gone back to green. It was a great race.”
The first lap in the history of USF Juniors was a clean one, with the young drivers getting cleanly through the 19 turns.
After the first lap of action of the 3.97-mile, 19-turn road course, Mac Clark with a 1.2-second lead over Sam Corry; the rest of the running order after the first lap was Andre Castro, Nikita Johnson, Jake Bonilla, Jeremy Fairburn, Alessandro De Tullio, Titus Sherlock, Alan Isambard, Earl W. Tucker, IV, Noah Ping, Elliot Cox, Jacob Bolen, Bianca Bustamante, and Ethan Ho.
Unfortunately, the teams for Nicholas d’Orlando (DC Autosport w/ Cape Motorsports) and Maxwell Jamieson (DEForce Racing) could not get their cars repaired after incidents in qualifying.
Sherlock got four wheels off on the second lap, dropping from eight to 11th.
On Lap 3, Fairburn and De Tullio could get around Bonilla to move up to the fifth and sixth spot.
Johnson grabbed the final spot on the podium, making a pass on Castro after the International Motorsport driver made a mistake.
Clark’s substantial lead at the halfway point of the 12-lap race was a significant 6.9 seconds over Corry.
The rest of the running order was Johnson, Castro, Fairbairn, De Tullio, Bonilla, Isambard, Cox, Ping, Sherlock, Tucker, Ho, Bolen, and Bustamante.
Clark had a significant lead out front, but there were some good battles on track. De Tullio was on the gearbox of Fairburn, and Sherlock was less than half a second of Ping for the tenth.
Clark had settled in out front, building an 8.1 second lead with four laps remaining. Behind him, the young Velocity Racing Development duo of Cory and Johnson were with a half-second for second place.
On Lap 9, Cory dropped two wheels into the dirt, allowing Johnson a better run of the corner and the chance to get past his teammate.
“I was really consistent,” said Johnson to Rob Howden after the race. “Once I got up to him, I made sure I wasn’t hitting him in the braking zones. I was just trying to time the perfect moment for the draft and pass. I think it was really great racing, and we both drove clean. It was really fun!”
While those two were battling, allowing Castor and Fairburn to enter the fight for the podium. Isambard moved to seventh on that same lap, and Bustamante got around Bolen for 14th.
Just before Clark began Lap 11, the yellow flag came out, erasing a 14.4-second lead and ending what was shaping up to be an entertaining battle for the final two spots on the podium.
The cause of the yellow was the Indian Creek CBD sponsored No. 25 of Jacob Bolen.
The remaining two laps were run under the yellow flag, locking Clark, Johnson, and Corry onto the podium.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Of The Ozarks Unofficial Race #1 Results
|1||17||Mac Clark||DEForce Racing||12 LAPS|
|2||7||Nikita Johnson||Velocity Racing Development||-0.635|
|3||14||Sam Corry||Velocity Racing Development||-1.054|
|4||23||Andre Castro||International Motorsport||-2.003|
|5||87||Jeremy Fairbairn||Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports||-2.492|
|6||20||Alessandro De Tullio||Velocity Racing Development||-3.282|
|7||53||Alan Isambard||International Motorsport||-3.892|
|8||19||Jake Bonilla||DEForce Racing||-4.719|
|9||67||Elliot Cox||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development||-5.849|
|10||55||Noah Ping||Velocity Racing Development||-6.596|
|11||31||Titus Sherlock||Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports||-7.009|
|12||71||Ethan Ho||DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports||-7.957|
|13||24||Earl Tucker||DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports||-8.484|
|14||9||Bianca Bustamante||IGY6 Motorsports||-9.011|
|15||25||Jacob Bolen||IGY6 Motorsports||-3 LAPS|