Exclusive Autosport’s Joey Brienza leads the USF Junior standings after the opening three races of the season at Sebring.
Quinn Armstrong was fastest by 0.413 seconds in practice, but in qualifying he was 0.91s off the pace in sixth as Brienza took pole by 0.524s over team-mate Jack Jeffers.
There were three rows of cars going four-wide at the start of race one on Thursday, but the 13-car field got through turn one cleanly and Brienza was able to create a small lead.
Armstrong made up three places on lap one of 10, and took second from Jeffers into turn one on lap two. From there he had a 1.3s gap to make up on Brienza, and was filling his mirrors by lap four. He got even closer next time by, then was 0.3s behind on lap six.
This time Armstrong found a way to overtake Brienza, but he then had to get defensive through most of the next two laps.
In the final two laps Brienza dropped back with a suspected mechanical issue, losing several seconds to winner Armstrong and finishing with Jeffers on his tail.
Jimmie Lockhart looked set for fourth but dropped to seventh on the penultimate lap, meaning the place went to Nicolas Giaffone.
Lucas Fecury started seventh, dropped outside the top 10, recovered to fifth then was passed by Ethan Barker.
Max Taylor was fifth before spinning at turn four on lap three, with Ethan Ho unable to avoid his stationary car. They both got going after the crash, with Ho charging to eighth while Taylor came last after pitting due to front wing damage.
Brienza and Jeffers filled the race two front row, and Taylor got past Jeffers for second place at turn two.
Lockhart then passed Taylor at the start of lap two, and Giaffone tried passing both around the outside of turn three but went off. Lockhart did the same, putting Taylor back into second.
It did not take long for Lockhart to pass Taylor successfully following that, and Giaffone did the same then overtook Lockhart for second. He tracked down Brienza, and took the lead on lap seven.
Going off at turn three again the next lap did not cost Giaffone the lead, and he held off Brienza to win.
Lockhart and Taylor’s battle for third included Jeffers in the race’s second half, and he took the position after Lockhart and Taylor collided. Taylor finished last, and a 30s penalty put Lockhart in 10th.
Brienza finally converted first place on the grid into victory in race three, and got very defensive at the start while Lockhart passed Giaffone for second at turn three.
Lockhart attacked Brienza on lap two, and his turn three defence enabled Giaffone to reclaim second at turn five. Later in the lap Barker ran wide and fell to last.
An off exiting turn one did not lose Lockhart third place on lap three, and he was forcing Giaffone into defence by lap four. But his attack did not go to plan and he then dropped to fifth while Brienza pulled away up front.
Taylor inherited third, and came under attack from Armstrong who later lost his car over the bumps and exited contention. Lockhart reclaimed the position from Taylor around the outside of turn one on the last lap, but Taylor got back past with the inside line for turn three. They went side-by-side through the final corner and Lockhart took the final podium spot by 0.056s in a photo finish.
Race 1 (10 laps)
1 Quinn Armstrong DEForce Racing 22m15.479s
2 Joey Bienza Exclusive Autosport +4.465s
3 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport +5.250s
4 Nicolas Giaffone DEForce Racing +9.475s
5 Ethan Barker Velocity Racing Development +10.663s
6 Lucas Fecury DEForce Racing +12.090s
7 Jimmie Lockhart Velocity Racing Development +15.288s
8 Ethan Ho DC Autosport +21.234s
9 Brady Golan DEForce Racing +25.127s
10 Erick Schotten Exclusive Autosport +26.201s
Pole: Brienza, 2m10.600s
Fastest lap: Brienza, 2m11.969s
Race 2 (10 laps)
1 Giaffone 22m10.468s
2 Brienza +0.244s
3 Jeffers +2.005s
4 Ho +5.720s
5 Armstrong +5.780s
6 Barker +7.052s
7 Fecury +7.377s
8 Golan +20.855s
9 Schotten +23.802s
10 Lockhart +38.411s
FL: Giaffone, 2m10.884s
Race 3 (10 laps)
1 Brienza 22m12.898s
2 Giaffone +1.479s
3 Lockhart +6.321s
4 Max Taylor Velocity Racing Development +6.377s
5 Jeffers +6.469s
6 Fecury +6.769s
7 Golan +26.063s
8 Schotten +26.161s
9 Ho +36.997s
10 Armstrong +38.499s
FL: Lockhart, 2m12.065s
1 Brienza 85 2 Giaffone 75 3 Jeffers 61 4 Armstrong 59 5 Lockhart 50 6 Ho 44 7 Fecury 44 8 Barker 40 9 Golan 37 10 Taylor 35