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

By Steve Wittich

Simon Sikes was less than pleased with how Saturday’s USF2000 Championship, Presented By Cooper Tires winner Lochie Hughes raced him in Sunset Bend on the race’s final lap.

That must have provided extra motivation for the 22-year-old, who obliterated the field with a lap at 124.424 seconds, almost six-tenths of a second ahead of his young Pabst Racing teammate Max Garcia, who will start on the outside of the front row for the second straight race.

Sikes now has three career USF2000 poles; all have occurred in the last three races.

The pole start is the 40th in USF2000 for the Oconomowoc, Wisc.-based Pabst Racing.

Hughes will start from the inside of the second row for the second straight race, the same position he won from on Saturday.

Celebrating his 19th birthday today, Mac Clark will start outside the second row, his best start of the young season.

When qualifying for the second USF2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Sebring race got underway, the skies in Sebring, Fla. were sunny, and the ambient temperature was a comfortable 75F.

With only 20 minutes available for qualifying, the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway road course was quickly busy with the buzzing of the 19 Elite Engine-prepared, MZR-based 2.0 liter engines.

Drivers spent the first two laps carving out space for themselves and getting the proper amount of heat in their Cooper Tires.

In the No. 97, Zack Ping had a spin in Turn 1 on his second lap of the session but could continue. He came to the attention of the Velocity Racing Development crew, who got him back out on the track.

Race #1 pole winner Sikes was the early leader as lap times continued falling as the clock ticked to the halfway mark of qualifying.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development rookie Elliot Cox grabbed the provisional pole at the halfway point of the session before Sikes returned to the top of the timing screens. With ten minutes remaining, the top ten drivers were within one second of Sikes.

Lap times continued to drop, with Ho taking the provisional pole with five minutes remaining. Hughes grabbed the top spot less than a minute later, almost breaking the 125-second barrier.

With two minutes remaining, Sikes threw down a massive lap 0.6 seconds quicker than Hughes.

On his final lap of the session, Sike’s Pabst Racing young rookie teammate Garcia turned his quickest lap of qualifying, putting himself between Sikes and Hughes.

USF2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Sebring Unofficial Qualifying Results

122Simon SikesPabst Racing2:04.424——
224Max GarciaPabst Racing2:05.0050.581
38Lochie HughesJay Howard Driver Development2:05.0290.605
41Mac ClarkDEForce Racing2:05.1690.745
568Ethan HoDC Autosport2:05.3460.922
617Nikita JohnsonVRD Racing2:05.3700.946
767Elliot CoxSarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dev2:05.3720.948
86Evagoras PapasavvasJay Howard Driver Development2:05.4080.984
990Jacob DouglasExclusive Autosport2:05.6301.206
1014Sam CorryVRD Racing2:05.7541.330
1110Jorge GarciarceDEForce Racing2:06.0001.576
1297Zack PingVRD Racing2:06.0981.674
1395Chase GardnerExclusive Autosport2:06.1531.729
149Louka St-JeanJay Howard Driver Development2:06.2581.834
1518Danny DyszelskiVRD Racing2:06.6812.257
1619Gordon ScullyVRD Racing2:06.7922.368
177Al MoreyJay Howard Driver Development2:06.8852.461
1893Avery TownsExclusive Autosport2:07.0572.633
1912Maxwell JamiesonDEForce Racing2:07.3002.876

The second USF2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Sebring will get the green flag at 1:40 pm. Video and timing.