DEForce Racing’s Nicolas Giaffone reached four USF Juniors wins in a row in round three at Virgina International Raceway.
Pre-event testing took place on Friday, and Jack Jeffers was fastest with a 1m55.096s pace. That put him 0.298 seconds ahead of Joey Brienza and 0.581s ahead of Giaffone.
It was the same top three in practice on Saturday, Jeffers improving to 1m54.855s to lead the way by 0.094s but with a 0.660s gap to Giaffone in third who had a car-damaging off.
Qualifying took place shortly after and Hudson Schwartz was the early pacesetter, then Ethan Ho went to the top before red flags waved after Lucas Fecury crashed.
Qualifying restarted with six minutes remaining, and after the chequered flag waved Brienza matched Ho’s pace. Ho claimed race one pole having set the time first, and Jeffers was just 0.015s behind in third.
Jeffers went from third to first on race one’s opening lap, and Ho was demoted to third on lap three by Giaffone. He started to pressure the leader, but did not attempt a move until after a mid-race caution period due to the arrival of rain.
The track was dry enough to continue on slick tyres, and Giaffone tried passing Jeffers as they crossed the start/finish line on the restart. He then tried the over-under at turn one, and ended the lap 0.030s behind.
Giaffone tried the outside of turn one again and this time it worked, but Jeffers reclaimed the lead through the ‘Snake’. They finished the lap side-by-side, with Giaffone ahead by 0.019s and maintaining the lead through turn one. This time Jeffers could not reclaim first place through the ‘Snake’, and went into the final lap unable to challenge Giaffone until it was too late – as yellow flags waved at the final corner.
There was drama behind throughout. Ho and Max Taylor collided exiting turn one on lap six of 15, promoting Jimmie Lockhart to third until the rain came and he was among those who went off.
Schwartz then held third, but on the restart Fecury went past and then Brienza. Those two then clashed, promoting Quinn Armstrong onto the podium ahead of Taylor and Fecury.
Drivers’ second-best laps qualifying laps set the front of the race two grid on Sunday, and Jeffers claimed pole ahead of Ho and Brienza.
The pace car led the field through lap one, releasing the field on lap two. Giaffone passed Brienza on lap three, Ho on lap four, then took the lead around the outside of turn one on lap five.
He built a two-second lead before a caution period caused by Armstrong going off, and on the restart resisted Ho who collided with Lockhart at turn one and caused another brief caution period. Both drivers got going again after their crash.
Taylor was promoted to second, and with a tow tried passing Giaffone when racing resumed but after going wheel-to-wheel he spun off at turn 17.
That put Brienza second for the final lap, with Schwartz third and Erick Schotten fourth before he spun at turn one, so Brady Golan got the position. Giaffone won, Lockhart remarkably finished sixth, Ho was eighth but without a rear wing so got demoted to 10th in the race results, and Jeffers finished three laps down. He lost several places early on before pitting with an issue.
Setting fastest lap meant Giaffone earned race three pole, with Lockhart, Jeffers and Ho right behind for the rolling start.
There was an early caution period, after which Brienza tried attacking Giaffone but lost out to Lockhart. Jeffers then went on a charge, passing Armstrong, Brienza, Lockhart and Giaffone in four laps before pulling away to win.
Taylor made his way into third amid lots of battling that resulted in Lockhart pipping Brienza to fourth and Armstrong hitting Ho down to 10th.
Race 1 (15 laps)
1 Nicolas Giaffone DEForce Racing 35m33.827s
2 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport +0.159s
3 Quinn Armstrong DEForce Racing +2.122s
4 Max Taylor Velocity Racing Development +2.332s
5 Lucas Fecury DEForce Racing +3.078s
6 Erick Schotten Exclusive Autosport +3.184s
7 Hudson Schwartz Velocity Racing Development +3.808s
8 Ethan Barker Velocity Racing Development +4.337s
9 Brady Golan DEForce Racing +9.305s
10 Carson Etter DC Autosport +9.378s
Pole: Ethan Ho, 1m55.327s
Fastest lap: Taylor, 1m56.367s
Race 2 (15 laps)
1 Giaffone 34m53.440s
2 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport +0.224s
3 Shwartz +0.725s
4 Golan +1.891s
5 Fecury +2.469s
6 Jimmie Lockhart Velocity Racing Development +3.440s
7 Barker +4.081s
8 Giovanni Cabrera Exclusive Autosport +13.151s
9 Schotten +20.234s
10 Ethan Ho DC Autosport +12.815s
P: Jeffers, 1m55.348s
FL: Giaffone, 1m55.081s
Race 3 (15 laps)
1 Jeffers 31m12.547s
2 Giaffone +3.214s
3 Taylor +5.846s
4 Lockhart +9.199s
5 Brienza +9.374s
6 Armstrong +9.765s
7 Schotten +13.853s
8 Etter +14.255s
9 Golan +14.643s
10 Ho +14.655s
FL: Jeffers, 1m54.619s
1 Giaffone 229 2 Brienza 169 3 Armstrong 153 4 Jeffers 147 5 Lockhart 131 6 Fecury 129 7 Taylor 118 8 Ho 104 9 Golan 103 10 Schotten 101