Giaffone Closing in on Title while JHDD makes USF Juniors Debut
 August 9, 2023| 
  • Series News
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PALMETTO, Fla. – There will be two major talking points this weekend as the second season of USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires reaches toward its conclusion with a visit to “America’s National Park of Speed” at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The first is whether or not 18-year-old Nicolas Giaffone, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, can do enough to clinch the Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $241,800 to advance to the next step on the USF Pro Championships ladder, USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2024.

Interest also will be focused on the series debut of powerhouse junior open-wheel team Jay Howard Driver Development, which will enter a trio of newly acquired Tatuus JR-23 cars as the Carmel, Ind.-based organization expands on its portfolio with the ultimate aim of providing a direct path all the way from karting to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

With 10 of 16 races this season already in the books, Giaffone, the son of former INDYCAR racer Felipe Giaffone, has opened up a substantial lead in the points table, 270-204, over his nearest rival, 16-year-old DEForce Racing teammate Quinn Armstrong, from Newcastle, N.S.W., Australia. Armstrong won the opening race of the season at Sebring International Raceway, Fla., and added a second victory at the most recent race last month at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington, Ohio.

Giaffone, who is contesting his first season of racing in North America after finishing fifth in last year’s Brazilian Formula 4 Championship, has won six races already, along with two additional podium finishes. Three races, each offering a total of 33 points, are on the docket this weekend. Giaffone could possibly clinch the title during the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America, although more likely is that the outcome will be decided during the final tripleheader event at Circuit of The Americas, near Austin, Texas, on August 26-27.

The Exclusive Autosport pair of Joey Brienza, from Golden, Colo., and Jack Jeffers, from San Antonio, Texas, still retain hopes of prying the championship from Giaffone’s grasp. Each has one win to his credit during their rookie campaigns. Brienza, who claimed a checkered flag at Sebring, currently trails Armstrong by just a dozen points, with Jeffers, a winner at VIRginia International Raceway in June, just four points further adrift.

Last year’s event at Road America was dominated by VRD Racing, which swept all three races with three different drivers. VRD will be back with a strong four-car lineup for Jimmie Lockhart, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Max Taylor, from Hoboken, N.J., Ethan Barker, from Houston, Texas, and Hudson Schwartz, from Arlington, Va. All are still seeking their first win of the season, although Lockhart, Taylor and Schwartz have finished on the podium and Barker has come close with a trio of top-six finishes.

As is customary with USF Juniors, the expanded field of 16 drivers will have plenty of time to become fully acquainted with the challenging – and fast – 4.014-mile Road America circuit, beginning on Friday with three half-hour test sessions.

An additional 30 minutes of official practice at 9:10 a.m. CDT on Saturday will provide one more opportunity to find pace prior to the all-important single qualifying session at 12:00 noon. The first of three races will start later in the afternoon at 4:20 p.m., followed by two more races on Sunday at 10:10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Live streaming coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and the website.
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