By Patrick Stephan

The green flag waved at 5:33pm Pacific Time, and we didn’t come close to making it through there cleanly with cars scattered across the track, and short cutting the chicane.

d”Orlando made it through, and held the lead, with Lirim Zendeli, Kiko Porto, Jack William Miller and Myles Rowe – the championship leader would stay 5th, and running.

Nikita Johnson, who had just run the USF2000 race, and Danny Dyszelski made contact toward the front with Johnson spinning and stopping in the middle of Turn 2, his left rear suspension barely hanging on.

Back in the pack, everyone stacked up and Ricardo Escotto winds up with his nose high in the air, bouncing over a car, then landing in the run-off and going through a sign. Others involved, many with major suspension damage are: Jonathan Browne, Lindsay Brewer, Frankie Mossman, and Nicolas Monteiro.

After four laps of yellow, race control brought the field to pit lane to get the order correct. They announced they would position cars based on the final timing line before the chicane.

Rowe was able to make it through the mess on the start, and now with just 12 cars running seems to be a great position to lock up the championship in this race. His lead entering the event was 58 points over Porto.

The red would be very brief, and we’d go back to green at the completion of Lap 5, and would again have some action at Turn 1. Porto moved to the inside and d’Orlando locked a wheel, then lifted off the brakes and rolled the run-off inside of the curbing. Lirim Zendeli would also short cut the corner.

Race control reviewed the start and instructed the #1 of d’Orlando and the #10 of Zendeli to drop to the end of the line for cutting the course.

d’Orlando would take a lap longer, but both would observe the penalty.

On Lap 9, Jack William Miller got squeezed in to the wall at Turn 9. Salvador de Alba moved to the right at the end of the backstretch, but wasn’t quite clear of Miller who was on the outside and in the preferred line to arc in to the corner. The contact would sent Miller to the pits. Race control indicates they will further review the incident post race.

Up front, Kiko Porto got the lead after d’Orlando picked up his penalty.

Lap 12 and Porto leads by 0.5 over Myles Rowe, Bijoy Garg, Jace Denmark and Louka St-Jean.

If Porto is able to stay ahead of Rowe, that takes the championship fight to at least tomorrow’s race #2 of 3 this weekend.

The biggest mover to this point is Jordan Missig who had started 19th after crashing in qualifying and halfway through the race was up to 8th.

Lap 15, the order is Porto, Rowe, Garg, Denmark, St. Jean, de Alba, Pizzi, Missig, d’Orlando, Towns, Miller (off), Zendeli, Browne, Johnson, Dyszelski, Escotto, Brewer, Mossman, Monteiro.

Zendeli has returned to run additional laps, and is now 11th, but 7 laps down.

Rowe was closing on Porto over the final laps, with the gap 0.8 with 2 to go and just 0.6461 when they duo took the white flag.

Rowe did not mount a passing attempt at Turn 1, and would follow Porto to the finish line, 0.6889 back. Bijoy Garg finished 3rd, Jace Denmark 4th and Louka St-Jean 5th.

With the win, Porto has cut Rowe’s lead to 51 entering race #2 tomorrow. Recall it’s 30 for a win, and 2 for 19th. So it still takes a couple really bad races for Rowe, which is certainly possible as the first start showed us with 7 cars not completing the opening lap.

This is Porto’s 3rd win of his USF Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires career, and second of 2023. He previously won in 2022 at Mid-Ohio (2) and last month at Circuit of the America’s (2). This was his 33rd start in USF Pro 2000.

Bijoy Garg notched a career best finish coming home third. That’s his first podium in 18 starts with his previous best coming earlier this season at Mid-Ohio (1).

This is Rowe’s 8th podium in 16 USF Pro 2000 starts (all this season). It’s his second P2 to go along with 5 wins.

More details to follow late tonight and tomorrow morning.

UNOFFICIAL: USF Pro 2000 Portland Race #1 Results

PosCar #DriveLapsDiffTeam
112Kiko Porto30LAP 30DEForce Racing
299Myles Rowe300.6889Pabst Racing
37Bijoy Garg306.8546DEForce Racing
420Jace Denmark308.6684Pabst Racing
53Louka St‑Jean3012.8039Turn 3 Motorsport
691Salvador de Alba3013.0677Exclusive Autosport
755Francesco Pizzi3013.8829TJ Speed Motorsports
819Jordan Missig3014.719Pabst Racing
91Michael d’Orlando3016.1855Turn 3 Motorsport
1095Avery Towns3034.6245Exclusive Autosport
1110Lirim Zendeli237 LAPSTJ Speed Motorsports
1240Jack William Miller8ContactMiller Vinatieri Motorsports
132Jonathan Browne1ContactTurn 3 Motorsport
1417Nikita Johnson‑‑‑ContactVRD Racing
1544Danny Dyszelski‑‑‑ContactTurn 3 Motorsport
164Ricardo Escotto‑‑‑ContactJay Howard Driver Development
1793Lindsay Brewer‑‑‑ContactExclusive Autosport
186Frankie Mossman‑‑‑ContactJay Howard Driver Development
1932Nicolas Monteiro‑‑‑ContactTJ Speed Motorsports