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

By Steve Wittich

The lone USF2000 Championship Presented By Cooper Tires practice session opened up a busy Saturday at the iconic Sebring International Raceway.

Bright sunny skies and an ambient temperature of 72F greeted the 17 drivers when the half-hour practice got the green flag at 8:35 am.

The Pabst Racing duo of veteran Simon Sikes and rookie Max Garcia traded the top spot on the time sheet in the first half of the session.

With ten minutes remaining, the winner of the first race of the season, Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Lochie Hughes jumped to the top of the timing screens, completing a lap of the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway road course in 125.097 seconds. That was four-tenths a second quicker than the fastest lap during spring training at the same track.

With five minutes left in the session, the top five were Hughes, Ethan Ho (DC Autosport), Garcia, Sikes, and Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development) had the five quickest laps.

Ho and the Triple S Suspensions sponsored No. 68 contested the three USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires races before the team converted it to USF2000 configuration.

On his ninth practice lap, Hughes lowered the top time to 124.857 seconds. His time at the top of the timing screen

Two cars blew through the checkered flag at the alternate timing line on the Ullman Straight. St. Petersburg race #2 winner Nikita Johnson (Velocity Racing Development) and Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development) will have to sit the first five minutes of qualifying as a penalty.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Sebring

122Simon SikesPabst Racing2:04.7992:04.79912
28Lochie HughesJay Howard Driver Development2:04.8570.0589
324Max GarciaPabst Racing2:05.0020.20312
468Ethan HoDC Autosport2:05.2910.49213
517Nikita JohnsonVRD Racing2:05.5560.75712
66Evagoras PapasavvasJay Howard Driver Development2:05.8591.06010
71Mac ClarkDEForce Racing2:06.0731.27410
867Elliot CoxSarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dev2:06.1901.39110
990Jacob DouglasExclusive Autosport2:06.2371.43813
1014Sam CorryVRD Racing2:06.2831.48412
119Louka St-JeanJay Howard Driver Development2:06.3021.50311
1295Chase GardnerExclusive Autosport2:06.9322.1339
137Al MoreyJay Howard Driver Development2:06.9422.14311
1410Jorge GarciarceDEForce Racing2:07.1332.33411
1512Maxwell JamiesonDEForce Racing2:07.3892.59013
1693Avery TownsExclusive Autosport2:07.4882.68913
1719Gordon ScullyVRD Racing2:10.0495.2506

The middle rung of the USF Pro Championships Presented By Cooper Tires ladder will qualify at 12:25 pm.