USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires is up and running and so is Canadian Mac Clark. The opening two races of the brand-new championship, a pre-step to the internationally acclaimed Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, were held Saturday at the challenging and equally new Ozarks International Raceway, with Clark, from Milton, Ontario, scoring a pair of dominant victories for DEForce Racing.
Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Florida, and Velocity Racing Development teammate Alessandro De Tullio, from Miami, Florida, shared the second-place finishes, with Sam Corry, from Cornelius, North Carolina, taking a brace of thirds aboard a third Velocity Ligier.
Clark established his mastery from the moment he took to the undulating 3.97-mile, 19-turn race track for the first time in testing on Friday. After securing the inaugural Cooper Tires Pole Award with a lap more than a full second faster than his rivals, Clark made no mistake at the start and immediately began to exert his authority.
The 17-year-old Canadian completed the first of 12 laps a full 2.1s clear of fellow front row starter Sam Corry and continued to drive away from the field. Clark’s advantage had grown to a whopping 14 seconds by Lap 10, when the yellow flags flew for the first and only time as a result of an incident involving Jacob Bolen (IGY6 Motorsports) at the back of the field.
Clark’s huge lead was erased immediately, but there were no concerns as the final lap and a half were completed behind the Safety Car and his win in the inaugural USF Juniors race was assured.
Corry held second from the start but Johnson, who started sixth after problems in qualifying, was on a charge. The youngest driver in the field at age 13, Johnson made up two positions on the opening lap then scythed past New York’s Andre Castro (International Motorsports) on Lap Four. Not content with third, Johnson put a move on his teammate on the ninth lap to secure a fine second-place finish.
Corry held on for third ahead of Castro, who was chased home by Wellington, Fla.’s Jeremy Fairbairn (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) after an impressive charge from eighth on the starting grid.
Clark repeated his form later in the afternoon after the second race was interrupted by an incident on the opening lap which eliminated Fairbairn, Jake Bonilla (DEForce Racing), from San Antonio, Texas, and Castro’s teammate Alan Isambard, from West Palm Beach, Fla. That proved to be only a minor inconvenience for Clark.
After a red flag stoppage to allow the track to be cleared, Clark carried on from where he left off, romping clear of the pace to take the checkered flag with a sizeable margin of 8.6s.
Johnson, who started second, seemed set to maintain that position until spinning in Turn 7 halfway through the race, dropping him to seventh.
Corry took up chase behind Clark, but he had bigger concerns with teammate De Tullio looming large in his mirrors. The pair went into the final lap virtually side by side, with De Tullio making the move stick in Turn 1 and emerging to take second place.
Castro secured another fourth-place finish, well clear of Titus Sherlock (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), from Prosper, Texas, while Johnson managed to gain back one position in the closing stages by taking sixth from Californian Ethan Ho (DC Autosport w/Cape Motorsports).
Clark ended the day with a maximum score of 66 points and commanding early championship lead. He also earned a pair of PFC Awards for David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
The third and final race of the opening weekend of the season will see the green flag Sunday at 11:50 a.m. CDT.