NOLA Motorsports Park Set for Busy USF Pro Championships Weekend
 April 2, 2024| 
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USF Juniors Campaign Kicks off with Triple-header and 26 Entries

PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the USF Pro Championships Presented by Continental Tire open-wheel driver development ladder will be featured this weekend, April 5-7, at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. A total of 65 young drivers with their sights set on a career in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Indianapolis 500 will converge on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course situated only a few miles from downtown New Orleans, which also hosted the series’ traditional Spring Training pre-season test last month, for the Continental Tire Grand Prix of Louisiana.

For USF Pro 2000 and USF2000, this weekend will represent the second event of the season following a pair of races apiece last month on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. But it will be the season-opener for a burgeoning USF Juniors field which has attracted a record grid of 26 cars. Collectively, over $1.68 million in scholarships and awards will be distributed at the end of the year to ensure graduation onto the next step of the ladder in 2025.

In addition, the Skip Barber Racing School’s Formula Race Series will continue its season with a pair of races on Sunday. Skip Barber is the Official Racing School of USF Pro Championships with a scholarship of $100,000 on offer for the champion to progress to USF Juniors.

Hughes Takes Early Edge in USF Pro 2000
The USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire campaign kicked off with a pair of exciting races in Florida and two different winners. Impressively, Australian rookie Lochie Hughes came out of the blocks by leading from start to finish in the opening encounter – just as he did 12 months previously when he also won on his debut in USF2000.

Hughes’ hopes of a clean sweep for Turn 3 Motorsport were derailed by 15-year-old local driver Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla., who pounced for VRD Racing with six laps remaining in Race Two to equal the score on the St. Petersburg streets. Hughes had to be content with second position but still accumulated a slender eight-point advantage as the two early title rivals head for Louisiana.

Pabst Racing’s Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., New Zealand rookie Liam Sceats (TJ Speed Motorsports) and Danny Dyszelski (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Belmont, N.C., also notched podium finishes to begin their championship challenges on a high note. In addition, Californian Frankie Mossman (Jay Howard Driver Development) and former USF2000 champion Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from Indianapolis, Ind., ran among the top five to amply display the deep competitiveness among the teams that has become a hallmark of USF Pro 2000 in recent years.

After a day of testing and one official practice session on Friday, March 5, the intensity will ramp up on Saturday with a pair of qualifying sessions and Race One which is set to start at 4:25 p.m. CDT. Two more 18-lap races will see a green flag on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.

Garcia Leads Hungry USF2000 Pack
Just over a week before his 15th birthday, Max Garcia made the perfect start to his USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship quest by winning not once but twice in St. Petersburg for defending champion team Pabst Racing. Having also set the pace during the prior Spring Training test, the young resident of Coconut Grove, Fla., will return to NOLA Motorsports Park riding a huge wave of confidence.

Not that Garcia is likely to have things all his own way. He was beaten away from the starting line in both of the opening two races – by different rivals – and can expect even greater competition this week as he strives to extend his championship lead and strengthen his bid for a scholarship valued at $458,400 to graduate next year into USF Pro 2000.

The other two podium finishers in Florida were Pabst Racing teammate Sam Corry, from Cornelius, N.C., and Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas, from Loveland, Ohio. The pair each shared a second and a third, although Papasavvas grabbed a slender one-point edge by virtue of leading most laps in the opening encounter.

Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), from Indianapolis, Ind., Canadian Nico Christodoulou (VRD Racing), Michael Costello (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Naples, Fla., and Australian Quinn Armstrong (DEForce Racing) also are expected to shine again this week. And Exclusive Autosport’s Thomas Schrage, from Bethel, Ohio, will seek to build on an impressive drive from 17th to sixth in Race Two at St. Petersburg.

The USF2000 schedule virtually mirrors that of USF Pro 2000 with the three races set to start at 3:25 p.m. CDT on Saturday, and 9:00 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Huge Field for USF Juniors Opener
Interest in the first rung on the USF Pro Championships ladder, USF Juniors, continues to strengthen. No fewer than 26 cars are expected to be on the grid Saturday afternoon for the first of three races that will kick off the 2024 season.

Picking a selection of likely frontrunners is far from easy, although English youngster Liam McNeilly laid down a marker at the Spring Training pre-season test by posting the fastest times for Jay Howard Driver Development, which will field a remarkable seven-car entry.

Exclusive Autosport’s Jack Jeffers, from San Antonio, Texas, is the top returning driver from last year after winning three times and earning third place in the final standings. In addition, Jeffers claimed the YACademy Winter Series crown following a series of six races at two tracks in Florida in February.

Max Taylor (VRD Racing), from Hoboken, N.J., also tasted the fruit of victory last year. Taylor, along with DEForce Racing’s Brady Golan, from Austin, Texas, will pull double duty in USF2000.

Second-generation racer Sebastian Wheldon steps up to USF Juniors with VRD Racing after winning the Skip Barber Formula Race Series crown and a $100,000 scholarship in 2023, while runner-up Jeshua Alianell will continue to be a thorn in Wheldon’s side as he moves into USF Juniors with a newly formed Skip Barber Racing team.

The huge field will be split into two groups for a pair of qualifying sessions which will set the starting order for three races at 12:20 p.m. CDT on Saturday and then 11:45 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
 
Full coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and respective series’ websites, usfpro2000.com, usf2000.com and usfjuniors.com.

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