New USF Juniors Series Makes its Bow in the Ozarks
 April 20, 2022| 
  • Series News
USF Juniors - Bonilla

PALMETTO, Fla. – USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires is set to make its highly anticipated race debut this week at the new Ozarks International Raceway near Gravois Mills, Mo. Announced in September of last year, the entry level series is a pre-step to the accomplished Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel driver development ladder.

Eighteen hungry young drivers will contest the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of the Ozarks which will comprise three races around the undulating and challenging 3.97-mile, 19-turn road course. At the conclusion of the inaugural six-event, 16-race season, the series champion will earn a scholarship valued at over $220,000 to graduate onto the first step of the Road to Indy, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, in 2023.

A majority of drivers will be making their initial foray into car racing, many of them after achieving success in the karting ranks including 15-year-old Alessandro De Tullio, from Miami, Fla., who is set to make his professional car racing debut with Velocity Racing Development after also impressing in the sim world during the recent TireRack.com Road to Indy iRacing eSeries Presented by Cooper Tires.

A trio of VRD teammates, Sam Corry, 14, from Cornelius, N.C., Nikita Johnson, 13, from Gulfport, Fla., and Noah Ping, 19, from Buford, Ga., also are expected to fight for top honors after a rigorous and impressive testing campaign. Johnson also displayed his speed by winning the recent YACademy Winter Series, while Ping, in particular, would relish some strong results in advance of his 20th birthday just one day after the Ozarks event is concluded.

Mac Clark, from Milton, Ont., Canada, was another to shine in the eSeries, joining De Tullio by winning two of the four events held specifically for Road to Indy Prospects. Clark, 17, perhaps has the most extensive car racing experience of the entire field on his resume, including a victory in the 2020 Canadian F1600 series. And it was Clark who led the way for DEForce Racing during the official USF Juniors test session last month at Barber Motorsports Park, in Leeds, Ala., which will host the next two rounds of competition on April 28/29 in advance of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES event.

Texans Maxwell Jamieson, 17, and Jake Bonilla, 21, also will fly the flag for DEForce Racing.

Other accomplished car racers include native New Yorkers Nicholas d’Orlando and Andre Castro. D’Orlando, 18,  whose older brother Michael finished second in last year’s USF2000 championship, went one better himself by winning the FRP F1600 Championship Series. The younger d’Orlando steps up with DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports. The team also will field cars for Earl Tucker, 23, from Branford, Conn., and Ethan Ho, 16, from Los Angeles, Calif.

Meanwhile Castro, 23, who parlayed a Team USA Scholarship into a third-place finish in the famed Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, last fall, has joined the new International Motorsport team for what he hopes will be his first-ever full season of racing after competing sporadically in a variety of categories over the past few years. Castro’s teammate, Alan Isambard, 18, who hails from Nogent-sur-Marne, France, is undertaking his very first season of car racing.

Jeremy Fairbairn, who celebrated his 17th birthday this week, is another driver with F1600/Formula Ford experience under his belt after competing in several UK events toward the end of last season. Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport teammate Titus Sherlock, 17, from Prosper, Texas, also will have high expectations after finishing second in last year’s Lucas Oil Formula Car Series and winning the recent Winter Series run by the Lucas Oil School of Racing, the Official Racing School of the Road to Indy.

Elliot Cox, 14, from Indianapolis, Ind., will carry the colors of former INDYCAR team Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development, while Bianca Bustamante, 17, from Manila, Philippines, will be the lone female in the field as she makes her car racing debut for IGY6 Motorsports. Fellow accomplished karters Jacob Bolen, 17, from Leland, Ill., and Jason Pribyl, 15, from Glenview, Ill., who also contested the SCCA National Runoffs last year in the Formula Enterprise 2 class after winning the Northern Region Championship, will join Bustamante at IGY6.

Following a classroom session led by series driver coach Gabby Chaves on Thursday, USF Juniors will take to the track on Friday, April 22, for three 45-minute test sessions in advance of official practice and qualifying on Saturday morning. The green flag for Race One is due to fly at 4:00 p.m. CDT, followed by two more races on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

Live streaming of all USF Juniors races can be found at RoadToIndy.TV, the new USF Juniors App as well as usfjuniors.com.

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