Home News Nikita Johnson gets first USF2000 win aged 14 on St. Petersburg streets

Nikita Johnson gets first USF2000 win aged 14 on St. Petersburg streets

by Ida Wood

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

Velocity Racing Development’s Nikita Johnson took his first USF2000 win aged just 14 in race two of the St. Petersburg season opener.

Johnson had a tyre advantage after saving a set in qualifying, which most of his opposition did not, and the “super confident” teenager said he knew if he could get into the lead of Sunday’s race then he would be able to “control the race”.

He started third on the grid, behind race one’s fastest lap setter Simon Sikes and Evagoras Papasavvas, and held that position through the first lap as the back of the field had dropped too far back and so the green flag of the rolling start did not actually occur until the start of lap two.

There was chaos once the racing did get underway, with Andre Castro pitting straight away, Jay Howard Driver Development’s drivers going three-wide and several drivers losing wings. Johnson got into second, and Louka St.-Jean went from seventh to fourth.

Zack Ping ploughed into Sam Corry at Turn 1 on the next lap, as Johnson found a way past Sikes into the lead and more drivers lost wings. Mac Clark slowed with a mechanical issue, and he and Chase Gardner fell down the order before pitting.

Ping lost more places to a drive-through penalty for his crash, then St-.Jean pitted from fifth, with Jacob Douglas following him into the pitlane.

Elliot Cox was next to lose a wing and pit after he was pressuring Jorge Garciarce, but none of the incidents led to the race being neutralised and it meant the top four of Johnon, Sikes, Papasavvas and Lochie Hughes were able to race flatout.

The gap between the top two was just a third of a second as the race went into its second half, with Papasavvas close behind until a lock-up at Turn 1 allowed JHDD team-mate Hughes to get on his tail and pass him on the inside of the last corner.

They had a gap of almost eight seconds to Joey Brienza in fifth, before he then started to lose places and had to pit, and Johnson’s tyre advantage started to pay dividends as he extended his lead to a second before encountering lapped traffic meant Sikes brought it back down to nothing.

Encountering backmarkers also made the battle for third more tense, but there were no change to the order at the chequered flag as Johnson held on to win by half a second and Hughes just held off Papasavvas for third.

Garciarce was a very distant fifth, resisting late pressure from Trey Burke, and Danny Dyszelski beat VRD team-mate Gordon Scully in the battle for seventh.

Race result (20 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Nikita Johnson Velocity Racing Development 25m23.4126s
2 Simon Sikes Pabst Racing +0.5627s
3 Lochie Hughes JHDD +3.5172s
4 Evagoras Papasavvas JHDD +3.7147s
5 Jorge Garciarce DEForce Racing +17.5834s
6 Trey Burke Future Star Racing +18.0588s
7 Danny Dyszelski Velocity Racing Development +27.7082s
8 Gordon Scully Velocity Racing Development +31.6273s
9 Maxwell Jamieson DEForce Racing +35.9222s
10 Al Morey JHDD +50.5005s
11 Sam Corry Velocity Racing Development +53.4696s
12 Avery Towns Exclusive Autosport +1m11.3989s
13 Nicholas d’Orlando Exclusive Autosport +1m11.6354s
14 Chase Gardner Exclusive Autosport +3 laps
15 Jacob Douglas Exclusive Autosport +3 laps
Ret Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport
Ret Zack Ping Velocity Racing Development
Ret Elliot Cox SFHR
Ret Louka St-Jean JHDD
Ret Mac Clark DEForce Racing
Ret Andre Castro Future Star Racing
Fastest lap: Sikes, 1m12.6925s

Championship standings
1 Hughes 54   2 Johnson 53   3 Sikes 46   4 Papasavvas 44   5 Burke 29   6 Corry 27   7 Garciarce 25   8 d’Orlando 23   9 Dyszelski 19   10 Douglas 19