Wheldon Leads 23-Strong USF Juniors Field to Virginia
 June 12, 2024| 
  • Series News
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PALMETTO, Fla. – A full complement of 23 drivers will return to action this weekend when a seven-week hiatus finally comes to an end and USF Juniors Presented by Continental Tire resumes its season with a trio of races at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. The June 15/16 event will mark the halfway point in the 16-race campaign, which remains hotly contested as the protagonists chase a scholarship valued at $263,700 to graduate onto the next step of the USF Pro Championships driver development ladder, USF2000, in 2025.

Second-generation racer Sebastian Wheldon currently holds a slender seven-point advantage after a fast start to the season. The 15-year-old from Coral Gables, Fla., claimed a pair of wins and a runner-up finish from the opening three races at NOLA Motorsports Park for VRD Racing, but had to be content with a second and a sixth from the subsequent event at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., where Israel’s Ariel Elkin swept both race wins for the InterMS team.

Elkin’s impressive performance, allied to a trio of top-five finishes at NOLA, moved him ahead of young Englishman Liam McNeilly, who also came out of the blocks quickly by earning two pole positions, a win, a second and a third from the initial tripleheader in Louisiana for Jay Howard Driver Development. An incident in the second race at Barber currently leaves McNeilly with a 29-point deficit to Wheldon, but he is primed for a return to prominence on the undulating and challenging 3.27-mile, 18-turn VIR road course.

Likely top contenders also will include Max Taylor, Augusto Soto-Schirripa and Jack Jeffers, who currently hold fourth through sixth positions in the points table.

Taylor, from Hoboken, N.J., who is undertaking parallel campaigns with VRD Racing in USF Juniors and USF2000, endured a difficult weekend in Alabama after having started out with a pair of podium results in Louisiana. But he is currently riding a wave of confidence after claiming two recent USF2000 victories, including one just last weekend at Road America.

Soto-Schirripa, from Miami, Fla., has been slightly overshadowed by his InterMS teammate Elkin thus far in 2024, but a pair of podium results at Barber backed up the promise he showed last year when he scored four wins from just 12 starts in the F4 United States Championship in 2023 – his first season in cars.

Jeffers, from San Antonio, Texas, has high expectations for a first win of the season for Exclusive Autosport, especially after scoring the first of his three wins last year at VIR during his rookie season.

The Continental Tire VIR Grand Prix will kick off with a test day on Friday, June 14, followed by 30 minutes of official practice at 9:05 a.m. EDT on Saturday. A solitary qualifying session, split into two groups and starting at 11:50 a.m., will set the starting positions for the first of three 15-lap races at 4:25 p.m. Two more races will complete the weekend on Sunday with the green flags set for 10:00 a.m. and 1:25 p.m.

Complete coverage will be available on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and series’ website, usfjuniors.com.
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