By Steve Wittich
The call to start the 2.0-liter Elite Engine prepared, 150 hp four-cylinder power plants came from race control at 4:15 pm.
After one lap behind the pace car, the front row of Exclusive Autosport teammates Joey Brienza and Jack Jeffers brought the field to the green flag on the wide concrete front straight.
When the green flag flew, the field went four wide behind the front two before funneling into Turn 1. The baker’s dozen cars made it cleanly through the first lap with the running order Birenza, Jeffers, Quinn Armstrong (DEForce Racing), Jimmie Lockhart (Velocity Racing Development), Max Taylor (Velocity Racing Development), Ethan Ho (DC Autosport), Nicolas Giaffone (DEForce Racing), Ethan Barker (Velocity Racing Development), Brady Golan (DEForce Racing), Erick Schotten (Exclusive Autosport), Lucas Fecury (DEForce Racing), Carson Etter (DC Autosport) and Giovanni Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport).
Armstrong, the driver that led practice on Thursday morning, moved into second place, going to the inside of Jeffers in Turn 1 to start the second lap.
Also gaining spots on the second lap was Giaffone and Fecury
On the second lap, Taylor, who was running fifth, spun in Turn 3, with Ho spinning to avoid hitting the No. 33. Both drivers could continue, keeping the race green.
Unfortunately, Taylor was forced to pit lane to replace the front wing on his PINK ETF/Susan G Komen Foundation sponsored car, returning to the track a lap down.
As they began Lap 3, the No. 16 of Armstrong was putting pressure on Brienza, forcing the pole-sitter to take an inside defensive line into Turn 1.
Brienza altered his line in the final corner, which, combined with being quicker in Turn 1, meant the Coloradan solidified his lead over the next two laps.
Armstrong took the lead with an inside move in Turn 17 on that sixth lap after a fluke mechanical glitch meant Birezna was stuck in fourth gear. Giaffone, Golan and Ho all gained spots on the same lap.
The battle for fourth was raging on Lap 7, with Giaffone, Lockhart, Barker and Fecury covered by less than a second.
With three laps remaining, Armstrong’s lead was 0.7 seconds, with Jeffers going quicker than the front two to enter the fight for the lead.
Armstrong slid out of Sunshine Bend on the penultimate lap, crossing the line only a half-second ahead of Brienza.
On that eighth lap, Brienza was hounding Armstrong through Turn 10 before falling back in the second half of the lap after bending a toe-link after hitting a curb while trying to make up time, getting the white flag 1.8 seconds behind the leader.
Brienza nursed his UBS sponsored No. 91 home finishing second, with his Exclusive Autosport teammate Jeffers coming home third.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Of Sebring (USF Juniors) Race #1 results
|1||16||Quinn Armstrong||DEForce Racing|
|2||91||Joey Brienza||Exclusive Autosport|
|3||92||Jack Jeffers||Exclusive Autosport|
|4||19||Nicolas Giaffone||DEForce Racing|
|5||12||Ethan Barker||VRD Racing|
|6||17||Lucas Fecury||DEForce Racing|
|7||48||Jimmie Lockhart||VRD Racing|
|8||68||Ethan Ho||DC Autosport|
|9||18||Brady Golan||DEForce Racing|
|10||90||Erick Schotten||Exclusive Autosport|
|11||57||Carson Etter||DC Autosport|
|12||93||Giovanni Cabrera||Exclusive Autosport|
|13||33||Max Taylor||VRD Racing|
The second race of the weekend is set for a 9:20 am start on Saturday.