By Steve Wittich
Veteran Pabst Racing’s Simon Sikes picked up where he left off USF2000 Championship Presented By Cooper Tires spring training earlier this week, dominating the competition.
The 22-year-old Georgian’s lap, timed at 74.4548 seconds, was almost six-tenths quicker than the next-best driver, Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), with the following 13 drivers within a second of the Aussie.
The lone 25-minute USF2000 Championship Presented By Cooper Tires got underway with the 21 entries quickly taking to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.
After five minutes, the first red flag came out when the No.92 of Nicholas d’Orlando stopped in the run-off, with most drivers only completing two laps. He could drive back to pit road but did not complete another lap at pace.
Reigning USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires champion Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), had the quickest lap time, followed by Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), Nicholas d’Orlando (Exclusive Autosport), and Simon Sikes (Pabst Racing).
The green flag remained out for ten minutes before a chaotic lap, which saw four cars bring out the second red flag with 11 minutes remaining in the session.
Single-car incidents involving Chase Gardner (Exclusive Autosport) in Turn 1 and Cox, along with a two-car disagreement in the Turn 4 braking zone between Trey Burke (Future Star Racing) and Sam Corry (Velocity Racing Development) brought out the second red flag of the session.
Race control ordered Burke and Corry to the principal’s office (race director Joel Miller) immediately after practice.
Sikes had taken over the top spot, followed by Nikita Johnson (Velocity Racing Development), Clark, Andre Castro (Future Star Racing), Corry, Zack Ping (Velocity Racing Development), Jorge Garciarce (DEForce Racing), Douglas, Hughes and Gardner.
The green flag returned, allowing the drivers to complete a few more laps before the third red flag flew for the Hughes’ No. 8 off-track in Turn 4 with three minutes remaining.
Drivers were given one green flag lap to see if they could improve. Unfortunately for Velocity Racing Development rookie Gordon Scully, his No. 19 ended up backwards against the wall in Turn 9.
USF2000 Championship Presented By Cooper Tires practice timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||BEST LAP||DIFF.|
|1||22||Simon Sikes||Pabst Racing||1:14.4548||—|
|2||8||Lochie Hughes||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:15.0499||0.5951|
|3||14||Sam Corry||VRD Racing||1:15.1012||0.6464|
|4||6||Evagora Papasavvas||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:15.1891||0.7343|
|5||17||Nikita Johnson||VRD Racing||1:15.2394||0.7846|
|6||10||Jorge Garciarce||DEForce Racing||1:15.3147||0.8599|
|7||97||Zack Ping||VRD Racing||1:15.4030||0.9482|
|8||1||Mac Clark||DEForce Racing||1:15.4375||0.9827|
|9||90||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||1:15.5064||1.0516|
|10||18||Danny Dyszelski||VRD Racong||1:15.5076||1.0528|
|11||56||Andre Castro||Future Star Racing||1:15.6838||1.2290|
|12||7||Al Morey||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:15.7957||1.3409|
|13||91||Joey Brienza||Exclusive Autosport||1:15.8496||1.3948|
|14||67||Elliot Cox||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development||1:15.9103||1.4555|
|15||19||Gordon Scully||VRD Racing||1:15.9937||1.5389|
|16||95||Chase Gardner||Exclusive Autosport||1:16.1116||1.6568|
|17||9||Louka St.-Jean||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:16.1843||1.7295|
|18||58||Trey Burke||Future Star Racing||1:16.7160||2.2612|
|19||12||Maxwell Jamieson||DEForce Racing||1:16.7295||2.2747|
|20||93||Avery Towns||Exclusive Autosport||1:16.9520||2.4972|
|21||92||Nicholas d’Orlando||Exclusive Autosport||1:18.3639||3.9091|
The middle rung of the USF Pro Championships Presented By Cooper Tires will qualify for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 4:30 pm.