Nicolas Giaffone put one hand on the USF Juniors title with two podiums at Road America.
Jack Jeffers and Ethan Barker were joint fastest in pre-event testing, both setting 2m16.320s laps. Max Taylor brought the pace down to 2m15.609s in practice, and in qualifying Quinn Armstrong went fastest with a 2m15.003s that secured him race one pole by 0.072s over Taylor.
Ayden Ingratta was third fastest but was off at the opening corner of the race following contact with Giaffone. Hudson Schwartz inherited third, while Ingratta finished lap one in the pits.
There were dramatic offs during the lap, including Erick Schotten having a huge wobble at Canada Corner which he had to save to avoid going into the barriers.
Taylor took the lead from Armstrong on lap three of 10, and on lap four Jeffers overtook Schwartz at turn one. He went for second place at turn two, but found Armstrong getting back past Taylor in front of him. A caution period was then called for after Lucas Fecury and Carson Etter had car-damaging contact at turn five.
Racing resumed on lap seven and Taylor tried the outside of Armstrong at turn one. Jeffers then had a go at turn five while embroiled in a three-wide fight behind the leader. There was contact between Jimmie Lockhart and Taylor exiting turn seven, sending both to the back of the pack and giving Armstrong a gap up front.
Armstrong won by 2.785s over Jeffers, with Joey Brienza finishing third from ninth on the grid.
A lapped Ingratta got a 30s penalty for blocking, while Giaffone recovered to sixth, and retiree Etter and Ava Dobson got 30s penalties for avoidable contact.
Ingratta and Taylor shared the grid’s front row for race two, and Ingratta was passed by Taylor and Jeffers on lap one. Jeffers took the lead at turn one on lap two, but a lap later was passed by Lockhart who had started eighth.
Giaffone and Armstrong fought over fifth behind, as the lead battle continued until a spin by Ingratta led to a caution period on lap five of 10. Jeffers had reclaimed the lead prior to that, while Taylor’s attempted move at turn one led to him bouncing over the grass, damaing his car and retiring.
Racing resumed on lap eight, although DEForce Racing pair Giaffone and Armstrong jumped past the top two on the pit straight before the restart lap actually began.
They had a big gap and Armstrong took the lead at turn five, but by the end of lap Jeffers had got back past both. A big wiggle for Armstrong at turn one on the penultimate lap lost him more places, and Schotten was into third by turn eight.
Lockhart passed Jeffers at Canada Corner, and Jeffers momentarily reclaimed the lead on the outside of turn one then with a crossover move got the job done at turn five. Giaffone followed him through, and with second place extended his points lead over Armstrong in fifth. Fecury in 14th was penalised a position for being in wrong starting spot.
Setting the fastest lap put Giaffone on race three pole, and he led until turn five when Taylor moved ahead. They swapped places one lap on from that, as behind Etter hit Giovanni Cabrera off.
Ingratta joined the lead fight on lap six, following a caution period, and only a bad exit prevented Taylor from going back into first at turn five. Jeffers passed Armstrong for fourth and almost hit Ingratta on lap seven, helping the top two break away.
Schotten was next to break into third, but only briefly as Jeffers and Lockhart then got past while Ingratta fell down the order. Another caution period began moments after the leaders started the final lap, with Giaffone marginally ahead as they crossed the line but Taylor in front when the race was neutralised.
That meant Taylor held the lead to the chequered flag, but it took several hours for the final race result – and Taylor’s first win – to be confirmed.
Race 1 (10 laps)
1 Quinn Armstrong DEForce Racing 26m19.557s
2 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport +2.785s
3 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport +3.874s
4 Ethan Barker Velocity Racing Development +5.677s
5 Hudson Schwartz Velocity Racing Development +6.653s
6 Nicolas Giaffone DEForce Racing +9.288s
7 Brady Golan DEForce Racing +9.399s
8 Erick Schotten Exclusive Autosport +10.291s
9 Jimmie Lockhart Velocity Racing Development +21.022s
10 Giovanni Cabrera Exclusive Autosport +24.300s
Pole: Armstrong, 2m15.003s
Fastest lap: Ayden Ingratta, 2m15.846s
Race 2 (10 laps)
1 Jeffers 26m05.203s
2 Giaffone +0.692s
3 Lockhart +0.930s
4 Schotten +3.066s
5 Armstrong +3.985s
6 Carson Etter DC Autosport +3.996s
7 Schwartz +4.509s
8 Golan +5.245s
9 Brienza +5.324s
10 Barker +8.162s
P: Ingratta, 2m15.295s
FL: Giaffone, 2m15.264s
Race 3 (10 laps)
1 Taylor 27m37.986s
2 Giaffone +0.548s
3 Jeffers +0.796s
4 Lockhart +1.520s
5 Shwartz +1.864s
6 Schotten +2.098s
7 Barker +2.447s
8 Armstrong +4.039s
9 Brienza +4.937s
10 Golan +5.511s
FL: Taylor, 2m15.757s
1 Giaffone 337 2 Armstrong 266 3 Jeffers 266 4 Brienza 238 5 Lockhart 212 6 Taylor 188 7 Barker 175 8 Lucas Fecury 173 9 Schotten 173 10 Golan 164