Sam Corry claimed his first USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires victory today in the first of three races which will comprise this weekend’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. After finishing five of the previous seven races this season on the podium for his VRD Racing team, the 14-year-old Corry, from Cornelius, N.C., fought his way past championship points leader Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) of Canada following a brief full-course caution and held off Clark by just 0.798s to take the win.
Corry’s VRD Racing teammate Alessandro De Tullio finished third.
Clark continued his rich vein of form during a busy morning by posting the fastest lap in official practice and then securing his seventh Cooper Tires Pole Award in qualifying. Less than an hour later, Clark took full advantage by leading the 18-car field away from the rolling start, but he was unable to shake off the attentions of Corry, who remained hot on his tail.
The top four cars from qualifying maintained their positions through the early stages with De Tullio in third ahead of a third VRD Racing Ligier-Honda driven by Nikita Johnson.
Jeremy Fairbairn (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport) moved up a couple of positions on the opening lap to head Andre Castro (International Motorsport) and Elliot Cox (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development), who impressively rose up six positions on the opening lap.
Cox made one more pass on the next lap, at the expense of Castro. The pair chased hard after Fairbairn until Castro was able to move back past on lap 12. Unfortunately, the race stewards later determined that the pass had been made after a full-course caution was called following a spin for Maxwell Jamieson (DEForce Racing), at the back of the field.
Corry looked to have slightly the faster car during the middle portion of the race as he kept the pressure on Clark. At the restart, Clark defended the inside line into Turn 2, the Keyhole, but Corry was able to gain a better exit on to the long downhill back straightaway. The two leaders briefly made contact as they swept through the kink at Turn 3, but it was Corry who emerged in front before the braking area for Turn 4. Job done.
Clark tried hard to retaliate but also needed to be mindful of De Tullio, who was following closely in third place. The podium positions remained the same until the checkered flag, although De Tullio set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap as the three leaders were blanketed by less than a second.
“It was a really good race. Mac and I battled really well and I was just trying to run him down in the beginning stages of the race,” Corry related. “Once we moved towards the end after the safety car, I tried the outside in Turn 2 and that didn’t work, but I got on the inside on the back straight and had a really good run in Turn 4 and got it done there. I want to thank all of the VRD boys for just a great car.”
Corry’s magnificent performance ensured a fourth consecutive PFC Award for VRD Racing team principal Dan Mitchell as the winning car owner following De Tullio’s sweep of the Virginia International Raceway weekend in early June.
Johnson finished fourth ahead of Castro, who was later penalized for his pass under yellow and moved behind Cox in the final results. Fifth was therefore taken by Castro’s new International Motorsport teammate Giorgio Carrara, who recovered impressively on his USF Juniors debut after slipping from sixth to 10th on the opening lap. Fairbairn had to be content with sixth ahead of Cox and Castro.
Two more races, Rounds 9 and 10 of the championship, will be held tomorrow in advance of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series headline event.