Jay Howard Driver Development’s Lochie Hughes claimed pole position for the opening race of the USF2000 season by a tiny margin in St. Petersburg.
Hughes and Velocity Racing Development pair Nikita Johnson and Sam Corry were the drivers to beat throughout qualifying, which was stopped several times.
Johnson went to the top first, then Hughes set a 1m14.6895s lap to comfortably lead the way. Elliot Cox moved into second place after five minutes, then Hughes was shuffled down to fourth by Chase Gardner, Simon Sikes and Danny Dyszelski.
Improvements from Corry and Sikes put them into the top positions a minute later, and Johnson rose to third, but Hughes had clean air on track and he was able to leap them all by becoming the first driver to lap sub-1m14s.
The session was then red flagged after Sikes slid all the way through Turn 3, into the barriers on the outside and then to a stop down the straight to Turn 4.
It was a lengthy stoppage, and Sikes did not return to track. However he had only been knocked down from second to third on the timesheet when the next red flag period occurred, this time caused by Gardner crashing at Turn 8.
Corry went fastest just before the second stoppage occurred, and Evagoras Papasavvas had risen up to fourth.
Qualifying resumed with just under five minutes remaining on the clock, and improvements started to come in during the final two minutes. Johnson set a 1m13.1640s to put himself on provisional pole, 0.3314 seconds ahead of Papasavvas, and with 40 seconds to go Hughes recorded a lap just 0.0195s slower than Johnson’s benchmark.
Corry moved back into third as the chequered flag waved, and Hughes found even more pace to better Johnson by a slim 0.0804s.
Papasavvas was 0.4s back in fourth, and a personal best set at the very end put Trey Burke past Future Star Racing team-mate Andre Castro into fifth.
Nicholas d’Orlando was one of the last to cross the line and qualified seventh, ahead of Zack Ping, Joey Brienza and Dyszelski.
|2||Nikita Johnson||Velocity Racing Development||1m13.1640s||+0.0804s||16|
|3||Sam Corry||Velocity Racing Development||1m13.3569s||+0.2733s||16|
|5||Trey Burke||Future Star Racing||1m13.5984s||+0.5148s||11|
|6||Andre Castro||Future Star Racing||1m13.5993s||+0.5157s||13|
|7||Nicholas d’Orlando||Exclusive Autosport||1m13.7408s||+0.6572s||16|
|8||Zack Ping||Velocity Racing Development||1m13.7843s||+0.7007s||16|
|9||Joey Brienza||Exclusive Autosport||1m13.8184s||+0.7348s||12|
|10||Danny Dyszelski||Velocity Racing Development||1m13.8212s||+0.7376s||16|
|11||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||1m13.8609s||+0.7773s||16|
|13||Mac Clark||DEForce Racing||1m13.9397s||+0.8561s||15|
|14||Simon Sikes||Pabst Racing||1m13.9728s||+0.8892s||5|
|15||Jorge Garciarce||DEForce Racing||1m14.0153s||+0.9317s||16|
|17||Maxwell Jamieson||DEForce Racing||1m14.3327s||+1.2491s||15|
|18||Chase Gardner||Exclusive Autosport||1m14.3753s||+1.2917s||9|
|19||Gordon Scully||Velocity Racing Development||1m14.6691s||+1.5855s||16|
|20||Elliot Cox||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||1m14.9023s||+1.8187s||5|
|21||Avery Towns||Exclusive Autosport||1m15.8445s||+2.7609s||7|