PORTLAND, Ore. – Another exciting season of USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires competition concluded this weekend with champions in two of the three series being crowned at Portland International Raceway.
Myles Rowe, from Brooklyn, N.Y., bounced back from the bitter disappointment of narrowly losing out on the USF2000 title exactly one year ago by triumphing on the next step of the ladder, USF Pro 2000. Rowe also became the first African American driver to secure a major U.S. open-wheel championship.
After being able to contest only partial USF2000 campaigns during the past three seasons due to budgetary constraints, Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., capitalized on his wealth of experience by clinching this year’s championship on Saturday before stylishly adding another race win to his burgeoning resume on Sunday.
Both Rowe and Sikes drove for teams entered by Pabst Racing, marking the long overdue first – and second – Driver Championships for stalwart third-generation racer-turned-team principal Augie Pabst. Pabst Racing also capped a remarkably successful campaign by securing its fifth USF2000 Team Championship since 2017 as well as its first USF Pro 2000 Team Championship.
Pabst became the first team to sweep all four titles since the inception of the “Road to Indy” concept in 2010.
And while USF Juniors champion Nicolas Giaffone, of DEForce Racing, wasn’t on track this weekend after his season wrapped up one week earlier at Circuit of The Americas in Texas, the Brazilian was on hand to soak up the atmosphere. Giaffone also gained some welcome additional exposure by being included in one of the USF2000 live stream broadcasts and taking part in a well-attended champion’s press conference in front of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES media on Saturday.
The accomplishments of all three champions, plus their respective title-winning teams, were acknowledged yesterday evening at the annual Championship Celebration hosted by Andersen Promotions and enjoyed by a strong turnout of drivers, sponsors, officials and guests beside the Columbia River just a few miles from downtown Portland.
A total of more than $1.55 million in Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarships and other awards were distributed during the evening which will continue a new raft of drivers’ graduation toward the eventual goal of a career in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Other highlights of the evening included heartfelt tributes to Chris Pantani, who for the past 14 years as Cooper Tires’ Senior Manager, Event Marketing, Sponsorships and Motorsports, has spearheaded a groundbreaking relationship which has propelled countless talented young racing drivers toward successful careers in a variety of motorsports disciplines.
The relationship between Andersen Promotions and Cooper Tires will shortly come to an end, although the globally acclaimed ladder system will continue to grow in stature following the recent announcement that Continental Tire will become the Official Tire and Presenting Partner of the USF Pro Championships beginning in 2024.
In the meantime, teams and drivers will have an opportunity to commence preparations for the 2024 season with the traditional USF Pro Fall Combine open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on October 21/22.
USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires Award Winners:
USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires
Champion: Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship package valued at $664,500 to advance to INDY NXT in 2024 – Myles Rowe, Pabst Racing with Force Indy
Second Place ($40,000) – Kiko Porto, DEForce Racing
Third Place ($20,000) – Salvador de Alba, Exclusive Autosport
Team Champion ($10,000) – Pabst Racing with Force Indy
Cooper Tires Rookie of the Year ($7,500) – Myles Rowe, Pabst Racing with Force Indy
Hi-Tide Spirit Award ($1,000) – Salvador de Alba, Exclusive Autosport
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000 certificate) – Jordan Missig, Pabst Racing
YACademy Move of the Year ($1,000) – Jordan Missig, Pabst Racing
Makita Tools Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Tom Vasi, Pabst Racing
Carl Haas Golden Wishbone Award ($1,000 certificate) – Pabst Racing
Original Artwork by Jim Swintal – Myles Rowe, Pabst Racing with Force Indy
USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires
Champion: Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship package valued at $433,200 to advance to USF Pro 2000 in 2024 – Simon Sikes, Pabst Racing
Second Place ($30,000) – Nikita Johnson, VRD Racing
Third Place ($15,000) – Lochie Hughes, Jay Howard Driver Development
Team Champion ($7,500) – Pabst Racing
Hyperco Rookie of the Year ($2,500) – Lochie Hughes, Jay Howard Driver Development
Hi-Tide Spirit Award ($1,000) – Simon Sikes, Pabst Racing
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Chase Gardner, Exclusive Autosport
YACademy Move of the Year ($1,000) – Max Garcia, Pabst Racing
Makita Tools Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Jim Giustino, Pabst Racing
Carl Haas Golden Wishbone Award ($1,100) – Jay Howard Driver Development
Original Artwork by Jim Swintal – Simon Sikes, Pabst Racing
USF Junior Presented by Cooper Tires
Champion: Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship package valued at $241,890 to advance to USF2000 in 2024 – Nicholas Giaffone, DEForce Racing
Second Place ($25,000) – Quinn Armstrong, DEForce Racing
Third Place ($12,500) – Jack Jeffers, Exclusive Autosport
Team Champion ($7,500) – DEForce Racing
Cooper Tires Rookie of the Year ($2,500) – Nicolas Giaffone, DEForce Racing
Hi-Tide Spirit Award ($1,000) – Quinn Armstrong, DEForce Racing
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Giovanni Cabrera, Exclusive Autosport
YACademy Move of the Year ($1,000) – Erick Schotten, Exclusive Autosport
Makita Tools Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Omar Lopez, DEForce Racing
Carl Haas Golden Wishbone Award ($1,100) – VRD Racing
Original Artwork by Jim Swintal – Nicolas Giaffone, DEForce Racing
Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions: “Another fantastic year of young, talented drivers on all three levels of the USF Pro Championships putting out exciting racing as they learn and train to move all the way up to INDYCAR. Tonight, we honored the results that these fine young drivers achieved this season.”
Chris Pantani, Senior Manager, Event Marketing, Sponsorships and Motorsports, Cooper Tires: “The banquet is a culmination of all the activities we have throughout the year. We look forward to St. Pete, we look forward to the ovals but the banquet itself truly brings all the teams together to unify and celebrate our champions and those moving forward.”
Myles Rowe, USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Champion: “The evening was great. The support of everyone who came was phenomenal. It was a great event and I am just super grateful to be here to see this mission come to fruition and be completed. I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone who came and everyone who supported me.”
Simon Sikes, USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Champion: “It has been an amazing Championship Celebration here in Portland from Andersen Promotions and everyone at the USF Pro Championships. I am so thankful to be here and see everyone’s faces. It really means the world to me and my fellow champions to be able to stand up here tonight and just enjoy all the hard work that has gone in over the entire 2023 season. It’s been incredible and I am just looking forward to next year.”
Nicolas Giaffone, USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires Champion: “This has been a tremendous evening. I enjoyed seeing everyone for one last time before the season officially ends. I loved having Dan [Andersen] and Chris [Pantani] beside me taking photos. This is an experience I will cherish forever. It is one of my best memories – my first season in the U.S., to be able to this, it is a dream come true for me and I hope I can be here again in this position in the coming years.”