Competitors in both USF Pro 2000 and USF2000 wrapped up the two-day Spring Training pre-season test at Sebring on Tuesday, with Pabst Racing topping the times in both series.
Myles Rowe will head to the streets of St Petersburg for this weekend’s season-opener with his confidence high after again topping the USF Pro 2000 timesheets for Pabst Racing with Force Indy.
“It is just good momentum heading into the first race of the season,” said Rowe. “We always thought we had good cars here so this sets us up well for the second round [of the championship] which is here at Sebring [on March 25/26]. It is good momentum for the team and keeps the team in good spirits, and we can roll into St. Pete feeling good. It is just about executing.”
Rowe’s teammates, fellow rookie Jace Denmark and series veteran Jordan Missig, also showed well at the test by posting the second and sixth fastest times. Denmark, who finished third in the 2022 USF2000 championship, ended the two days just 0.086s shy of the fastest time set by Rowe at 1m58.669s.
Kiko Porto, the 2021 USF2000 champion, was third fastest for DEForce Racing, followed by Michael d’Orlando who has joined Turn 3 Motorsport after winning last year’s USF2000 crown. Christian Brooks completed the top five with Turn 3 Motorsport.
All of the top six times from the test were set during the first of today’s two 45-minute sessions. The seventh and eighth best times overall were both set yesterday by TJ Speed Motorsports teammates Lirim Zendeli and Francesco Pizzi. Both elected to sit out today’s sessions.
Other contenders this weekend will likely include Japanese American Reece Ushijima (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Sweden’s Joel Granfors (Exclusive Autosport), who rounded out the top 10 at Spring Training and will make their North American racing debuts after previously competing in Europe.
Pabst Racing also topped the Spring Training charts in USF2000 as Simon Sikes turned the fastest time in both of the first two sessions today, then opted to sit out the third. Sikes’ best lap from the earlier session, 2m05.431s remained as comfortably fastest of the day.
“This is the first time back in a car since December so it’s been awhile,” said Sikes, a former two-time SCCA Runoffs National Champion. “It is nice to shake off the rust and get back in with this team. We did our representative running that we felt like we needed to and checked off all the boxes and now we are just going to hit it hard at St. Pete. We showed well at Spring Training and we’re hopefully going to walk away with two wins this weekend. Obviously, that’s a tall task but we are going to work hard and we know we have the equipment. The pressure is on to get it done.”
Sikes has previously contested three partial campaigns in USF2000, garnering eight top-five finishes. He will begin the new season as one of the title favorites after joining the team which finished second and third in the points table last year – and swept both St. Petersburg races in 2022.
Ethan Ho turned heads in the final session by posting the second fastest time of the day at 2m05.664s for the DC Autosport team. Ho, whose primary focus this year will be in USF Juniors, was using the same car – switched over to USF2000 specifications – with which he ended yesterday with the fourth-best time in USF Juniors testing.
Others to shine during Tuesday’s Spring Training test included inaugural USF Juniors champion Mac Clark, who ended the day third-fastest for DEForce Racing; the Jay Howard Driver Development pair of Lochie Hughes and Evagoras Papasavvas, and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development’s Elliot Cox.
Several drivers opted not to venture out for the third and final session of the day, including VRD Racing’s Nikita Johnson. The youngest driver in the field at just 14 years of age, Johnson finished second in his 2022 USF Juniors campaign and also showed impressive form in several USF2000 outings toward the end of last season.
Other than Sikes, only four other drivers in the field have previous experience in St. Petersburg: the Future Star Racing pair of Andre Castro and Trey Burke, Jacob Douglas (Exclusive Autosport) and Jorge Garciarce (DEForce Racing).
After packing up and making the short drive to St. Petersburg, teams will prepare for the first official practice sessions on Friday morning. Coverage can be found on the free USF Pro Championships App, YouTube channel and respective series’ websites.