Mac Clark in the MIR Raceline USA/Sekanskin/Valkyrie AI sponsored No. 17 from the DEForce Racing stable grabbed his third straight USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires pole. This time, it was at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo Courtesy of Jose Mario Dias/USF Juniors)

By Steve Wittich

Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) continued his dominance early in the inaugural USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires season, grabbing his third straight pole, covering the 2.3-miles of Barber Motorsports Park in 86.828 seconds (98.097mph). That scorching lap was 0.165 seconds ahead of Road To Indy veteran Andre Castro (International Motorsport).

The following three drivers in the qualifying order, and the only other drivers within a half-second of Clark, were a trio of Velocity Racing Development pilots. Nikita Johnson, Alessandro De Tullio, and Sam Corry, who all stood on the podium at the first event of the season Ozarks International Raceway, will start from the third, fourth, and fifth spots.

Eleven of the 18 drivers that turned laps were within one second of the pole sitter.

The green flag for USF Juniors qualifying flew from the starters stand for a 20-minute shootout at 11:20 am.

The 18-drivers quickly began turning laps on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course in the quest for at least two hot laps.

Velocity Racing Development’s Nikita Johnson was the quickest driver after the field had completed at least two laps, but there were still 15 minutes remaining in the session.

Jeremy Fairburn spun in Turn 16, coming to rest on the driver’s left of the right-hander. The No. 87 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport machine was high-sided on the curbs and could not continue without the help of the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. Unfortunately, that necessitated the red flag with just over 13 minutes remaining, and the Fairburn lost his fastest lap.

When the green flag came back out, the No. 23 International Motorsport machine of Andre Castro left a little early. That was a violation of the rules and the quickest driver in the morning practice served a drive-thru as his penalty.

After a couple of laps to get their Cooper Tires up to the optimal operating temperature, lap times began to fall.

The first driver to improve on his lap time was DEForce Racing’s Mac Clark, turning a lap one-hundredth of a second quicker than Johnson.

The second red flag of the session came out with seven minutes remaining on the clock. The cause this time was the No. 20 of Alessandro De Tullio (Velocity Racing Development), who spun in Turn 13. He eventually continued but lost his best lap for causing a red flag. Like Fairburn earlier, he had just turned the third quickest lap.

After two more laps to get their tires warmed up, lap times began to fall, with first Castro and then Clark grabbing the provisional pole.

With two minutes remaining, Johnson and De Tullio inserted bested Castro but were still well behind Clark, holding the provisional pole.

On his last lap, Castro became the second car to turn a sub-87-second lap, grabbing the outside front row spot.

Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of Alabama unofficial qualifying results

1 17 Mac Clark DEForce Racing 1:26.828
2 23 Andre Castro International Motorsport 1:26.993 -0.165
3 7 Nikita Johnson Velocity Racing Development 1:27.119 -0.291
4 20 Alessandro De Tullio Velocity Racing Development 1:27.162 -0.334
5 14 Sam Corry Velocity Racing Development 1:27.300 -0.472
6 71 Ethan Ho DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports 1:27.395 -0.567
7 87 Jeremy Fairbairn Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports 1:27.412 -0.584
8 55 Noah Ping Velocity Racing Development 1:27.517 -0.689
9 19 Jake Bonilla DEForce Racing 1:27.650 -0.822
10 61 Nicholas D’Orlando DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports 1:27.709 -0.881
11 31 Titus Sherlock Crosslink Kiwi Motorsports 1:27.789 -0.961
12 67 Elliot Cox Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development 1:28.017 -1.189
13 24 Earl Tucker DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports 1:28.189 -1.361
14 8 David Burketh Future Star Racing 1:28.266 -1.438
15 9 Bianca Bustamante IGY6 Motorsports 1:28.408 -1.58
16 18 Maxwell Jamieson DEForce Racing 1:28.521 -1.693
17 25 Jacob Bolen IGY6 Motorsports 1:29.895 -3.067
18 53 Alan Isambard International Motorsport 1:30.821 -3.993

The first of two USF Juniors races will get the green flag at 2:35 pm (CDT).

Make sure you download the new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires app at the following locations: