DEForce Racing’s Nicolas Giaffone won the 2023 USF Juniors title with a race to spare at Circuit of the Americas.
Exclusive Autosport’s Jack Jeffers led a top four covered by 0.094 seconds in practice, then in qualifying he stretched his advantage to take pole by 0.234s over Velocity Racing Development’s Max Taylor.
In race one on Saturday he converted pole into victory, although it did not come easy. He held off Taylor through the esses on lap one, while Jimmie Lockhart passed Quinn Armstrong for third entering the back straight.
Taylor was able to go side-by-side with Jeffers later in the lap, as the two behind made contact and Armstrong fell down the order with a puncture.
On lap two Taylor went for the lead at turn one, and again at the end of the back straight. He and Lockhart passed Jeffers there, but Jeffers was able to reclaim second into turn one on lap three.
It took until lap 10 of 12 for Jeffers to finally return to the lead, diving down the inside of Taylor at turn one and making the move stick despite going wide at the exit.
A lap later Giaffone passed Lockhart for third, and on the last lap there was a race-ending collision between Connor Roberts and Erick Schotten.
Giaffone was guaranteed the title just by starting race two on Sunday, and he was only behind Jeffers on the grid.
Lockhart came from sixth to pass Giaffone for second on lap one, but then a caution period was called and Giaffone was back ahead. On lap two the race was red-flagged, with the restart taking place with a lap behind the pace car before the field was let loose.
Lockhart took second from Giaffone in the esses, but on the next lap Giaffone got back ahead at the end of the back straight.
On lap seven he pressured Jeffers into a mistake at turn one and went around the outside of him for the lead at turn 12. Jeffers spun Giaffone around at the next corner, and Lockhart inherited the lead. The incident dropped Jeffers to sixth and then retirement (with a 30s penalty for avoidable contact proving redundant), while Giaffone went down to 11th but recovered to seventh to become champion.
Armstrong passed Joey Brienza to finish second behind Lockhart, and Hudson Schwartz came out on top of a lengthy battle with Ethan Barker for fourth.
Jeffers and Giaffone shared the front row for race three, and were already getting too close to each other before the start. There were then multiple crashes on lap one, and the recovery of Lucas Fecury and Giovanni Cabrera’s cars required a caution period.
Taylor pitted from fourth at the end of lap three, just before racing restarted. Jeffers passed Giaffone as they headed up through the esses, and on lap five Jeffers went way too deep at turn 12 trying to stop Giaffone getting back past. Lockhart passed both but Giaffone got back ahead at turn 18, and he tried passing Jeffers again when they returned to turn one.
Jeffers forced him way off and Lockhart slipped into second before another caution period was called due to Dane Scott and Aidan Potter colliding.
The lap 10 restart was remarkably similar, with Jeffers’ approach to turn one this time leading to him riding over Giaffone’s left wheels. Lockhart and Barker passed them both, and Armstrong ran Barker off at turn 16 to take second place.
Barker dropped to sixth, but passed Giaffone who had a broken front wing, while Jeffers took second from Armstrong at turn 12 on the last lap and became championship runner-up. Giaffone ended up finishing ninth.
Race 1 (12 laps)
1 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport 27m23.017s
2 Max Taylor Velocity Racing Development +0.559s
3 Nicolas Giaffone DEForce Racing +3.798s
4 Jimmie Lockhart Velocity Racing Development +6.788s
5 Ethan Barker Velocity Racing Development +9.583s
6 Hudson Schwartz Velocity Racing Development +15.440s
7 Lucas Fecury DEForce Racing +15.761s
8 Brady Golan DEForce Racing +16.673s
9 Bianca Bustamante Exclusive Autosport +39.697s
10 Dane Scott JHDD +41.792s
Pole: Jeffers, 2m13.539s
Fastest lap: Taylor, 2m15.012s
Race 2 (12 laps)
1 Lockhart 38m53.899s
2 Quinn Armstrong DEForce Racing +1.223s
3 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport +3.714s
4 Schwartz +6.911s
5 Barker +7.679s
6 Fecury +8.173s
7 Giaffone +14.059s
8 Carson Etter DC Autosport +14.560s
9 Erick Schotten Exclusive Autosport +15.678s
10 Golan +14.602s
P: Jeffers, 2m13.882s
FL: Giaffone, 2m13.980s
Race 3 (12 laps)
1 Lockhart 34m28.490s
2 Jeffers +1.257s
3 Armtrong +1.516s
4 Schwartz +1.741s
5 Barker +2.731s
6 Brienza +3.562s
7 Taylor +5.254s
8 Golan +5.570s
9 Giaffone +6.137s
10 Bustamante +7.439s
FL: Jeffers, 2m15.357s
1 Giaffone 387 2 Jeffers 331 3 Armstrong 321 4 Lockhart 292 5 Brienza 278 6 Taylor 235 7 Barker 226 8 Fecury 206 9 Schwartz 205 10 Golan 201