There seems to be no stopping Mac Clark. The 18-year-old from Milton, Ontario maintained his dominance of the new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series with another flag-to-flag victory this morning for DEForce Racing in the second part of the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of Alabama doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park. Clark’s record of four wins from four starts has taken him into a commanding 42-point lead in his quest for a scholarship valued at over $220,000 to graduate onto the first official step of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, in 2023.
New York’s Andre Castro kept the pressure on Clark throughout the first half of an exciting 20-lap, incident-free race around the challenging 2.3-mile road course before settling for a first-ever podium finish for the brand-new International Motorsport team. Jeremy Fairbairn (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) earned his first podium finish in fine style after rising from sixth on the grid to third.
The starting positions for today’s race were set according to each driver’s second fastest lap during qualifying on Thursday, with Clark keeping his streak of Cooper Tires Pole Awards alive and Castro once again lining up alongside on the front row.
Mechanical problems unfortunately prevented both Alessandro De Tullio, who finished fourth yesterday for Velocity Racing Development, and Alan Isambard (International Motorsport) from starting today’s race, and then the green flag was held in abeyance after Clark’s teammate, Jake Bonilla experienced a mechanical problem on the pace lap.
After a couple of laps behind the safety car, Clark took off into the lead, chased by Castro who remained hot on his heels through the opening portion of the race. The two leaders traded fastest race laps as they quickly broke away from a large pack disputing third place.
Impressively, Clark found a little bit extra speed on all but one of the first 12 laps. Castro remained in his wheel tracks virtually the entire time, only to then slip back as the Canadian maintained his torrid pace out front.
Clark earned another maximum score of 33 points after establishing a new lap record of 1m27.354s on the 12th lap on his way to collecting a fourth straight PFC Award for DEForce Racing team principals David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
“DEForce Valkyrie gave me another amazing car, and I’m so happy to bring it home today,” said Clark. “We had a really good jump off pole and from there, it was just a matter of keeping my head down, keeping Andre behind me and taking care of those Cooper tires. They don’t call this the ‘Alabama roller coaster’ for nothing. Taking care of the left front was important but the tires are so durable it really wasn’t an issue in the end.
“It’s great to come away with maximum championship points. It might be easy to get complacent after four in a row but I have to keep working hard. Lots of hard work, lots of video review, lots of data — we’ve started the season strong, we just have to keep it going.”
Castro slipped back a little in second but still finished well clear of Fairbairn, who initially profited from De Tullio failing to take the start before fighting his way past Velocity Racing Development teammates Sam Corry and Nikita Johnson inside the first six laps.
Corry slipped to sixth in the early stages before displacing both Ethan Ho (DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports) and Johnson during a thrilling race-long battle to reclaim fourth at the finish and keep his title aspirations alive.
Johnson ended the race in fifth ahead of last year’s FRP Formula 1600 Championship winner Nicholas d’Orlando (DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports), who drove impressively through the midfield pack to finish sixth after starting 11th.
Up next for USF Juniors is a visit to yet another of this country’s most challenging and scenic road courses, Virginia International Raceway, in Alton, Va., for a trio of races the weekend of June 4-5.
Provisional championship points after 4 of 16 races:
1. Mac Clark, 130
2. Sam Corry, 89
3. Andre Castro, 80
4. Nikita Johnson, 79
5. Jeremy Fairbairn, 62
6. Alessandro De Tullio, 59
7. Ethan Ho, 50
8. Noah Ping, 46
9. Elliot Cox, 45
10. Titus Sherlock, 44