#22 Simon Sikes, Pabst Racing, Group6Gear Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography

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

122Simon SikesPabst Racing1:14.4548
28Lochie HughesJay Howard Driver Development1:15.04990.5951
314Sam CorryVRD Racing1:15.10120.6464
46Evagora PapasavvasJay Howard Driver Development1:15.18910.7343
517Nikita JohnsonVRD Racing1:15.23940.7846
610Jorge GarciarceDEForce Racing1:15.31470.8599
797Zack PingVRD Racing1:15.40300.9482
81Mac ClarkDEForce Racing1:15.43750.9827
990Jacob DouglasExclusive Autosport1:15.50641.0516
1018Danny DyszelskiVRD Racong1:15.50761.0528
1156Andre CastroFuture Star Racing1:15.68381.2290
127Al MoreyJay Howard Driver Development1:15.79571.3409
1391Joey BrienzaExclusive Autosport1:15.84961.3948
1467Elliot CoxSarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development1:15.91031.4555
1519Gordon ScullyVRD Racing1:15.99371.5389
1695Chase GardnerExclusive Autosport1:16.11161.6568
179Louka St.-JeanJay Howard Driver Development1:16.18431.7295
1858Trey BurkeFuture Star Racing1:16.71602.2612
1912Maxwell JamiesonDEForce Racing1:16.72952.2747
2093Avery TownsExclusive Autosport1:16.95202.4972
2192Nicholas d’OrlandoExclusive Autosport1:18.36393.9091

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.