USF Juniors Return to Action at Barber in Support of INDYCAR
 April 26, 2023| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO, Fla. – For the second time in the brief history of USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires, drivers on the first rung of the USF Pro Championships open-wheel racing development ladder this week will have an opportunity to compete on the same bill as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

A field of 15 cars is entered for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Alabama, which will comprise the fourth and fifth rounds of the 16-race season, at the impressive 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park facility located just outside Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, April 28.

All are chasing a scholarship valued at over $241,800 to advance to USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires in 2024 as part of the Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship. Discount Tire was announced as the Official Tire Retailer of USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires in March.

Three different drivers shared the victory spoils last month at Sebring International Raceway during the first weekend of competition for the band-new Tatuus JR-23 chassis, kicking off the series’ second year of competition. Joey Brienza, 18, from Golden, Colo., currently leads the point standings after scoring a win and a pair of second-place finishes in Florida for the Exclusive Autosport team.

Brazil’s Nicolas Giaffone, the 18-year-old son of six-time Indianapolis 500 starter – and 2002 podium finisher – Felipe Giaffone, trails Brienza by 11 points after adding a second and a fourth to his Sebring win for DEForce Racing.

Teammate Quinn Armstrong, from Newcastle, N.S.W., Australia, won the opening race at Sebring, but struggled in the other two races and consequently lies only fourth in the points table, merely two points behind two-time runner-up finisher Jack Jeffers (Exclusive Autosport), from San Antonio, Texas.

Jimmie Lockhart, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., also showed excellent speed in his home-state opening rounds. Lockhart ran among the top four for all three races, and eventually finished on the podium at the third time of asking for VRD Racing.

Additional entries this weekend include an ambitious new team, Ram Racing, which has won five NACAM Formula 4 Championship titles since 2005. Now with a base at MSR Houston in Texas, Ram Racing will make its initial foray into the USF Pro Championships with 18-year-old Colombian Juan Felipe Pedraza, who claimed the top NACAM spoils in 2023 with eight wins from 17 starts.

Hudson Schwartz, a 13-year-old phenom from Arlington, Va., also will make his debut with VRD Racing after winning previously both in karting and the recent Lucas Oil Formula Car Winter Series.

A pair of test sessions on Thursday, April 27, will allow the teams and drivers one last chance to gain experience of the undulating 17-turn track prior to 30 minutes of official practice at 3:00 p.m. CDT. The first of two qualifying sessions at 4:30 p.m. will set the grid for Race One at 10:15 a.m. on Friday. A second qualifying period bright and early at 7:45 a.m. on Friday will determine the starting positions for Race Two later in the afternoon at 4:15 p.m., immediately after the first official NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session of the weekend.

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

The Discount Tire STEM Program also launched this week with a school visitation today at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala., headed by USF Pro Championships Race Director Joel Miller. Students from the school’s Automotive Service Technology course will be guests of Discount Tire on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park to complete the program with an immersive at-track experience.

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