Velocity Racing Development’s Nikita Johnson ended the USF Pro 2000 season at Portland with victory, his second from five starts.
He stepped up from USF2000 for the penultimate round at Circuit of the Americas, and became the series’ youngest ever winner there, then the 15-year-old doubled up in both levels of the IndyCar support bill last weekend.
Johnson took the lead from poleman Michael d’Orlando at the opening corner of the Portland finale, and Lirim Zendeli came from sixth on the grid to also try to pass d’Orlando on the opening lap.
Drama behind meant the race was put under a caution period due to debris, with Bjoy Garg slowing down and Francesco Pizzi pitting for a new wing.
On the lap four restart it got even more dramatic, as Zendeli and Kiko Porto had a big crash at turn 10 and the pace car was called out again.
Racing resumed on lap eight and Jace Denmark tried going for the lead while d’Orlando dropped down the order. On his way down he made contact with Ricardo Escotto, sending him even further down the field to 14th.
However he had recovered to 11th by the next lap, and was back in the top 10 by lap 11. The pace car was on track once more two laps later after Escotto almost ran into the back of Lindsay Brewer and lost his front wing as he bounced over the grass. Brewer then stopped track, but eventually got going again and was able to make it to the pits.
The lap 15 restart was calmer than earlier ones, with Johnson defending the inside line at turn one and Jonathan Browne going past Denmark and champion Myles Rowe into second. Rowe then pitted, and Denmark lost more ground too as he was passed by Salvador de Alba and Jack William Miller.
On lap 17 the race was neutralised again after Frankie Mossman crashed at the final corner on the preceding lap, and racing did not resume until lap 21 of 30.
De Alba took second at turn one, and behind Pizzi jumped over the kerbs and into Miller, sending the latter into retirement and causing another caution period.
So three laps later there was another restart, and the race remained green for the final seven laps. Johnson won ahead of de Alba, Browne resisted some pressure from Denmark for third, and d’Orlando finished fifth after making his way into that position on the previous restart.
De Alba secured third in the championship standings ahead of d’Orlando, with Zendeli beating Pizzi to fifth in the standings on victory countback.
Race result (30 laps)
|1||Nikita Johnson||Velocity Racing Development||46m56.1640s|
|2||Salvador de Alba||Exclusive Autosport||+0.8544s|
|3||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||+5.7690s|
|4||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||+5.9365s|
|5||Michael d’Orlando||Turn 3 Motorsport||+6.4804s|
|6||Francesco Pizzi||TJ Speed||+7.1270s|
|7||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||+7.5882s|
|8||Louka St.-Jean||Turn 3 Motorsport||+9.8802s|
|9||Danny Dyszelski||Turn 3 Motorsport||+9.9279s|
|10||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||+2 laps|
|11||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||+2 laps|
|12||Avery Towns||Exclusive Autosport||+4 laps|
|13||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||+5 laps|
|Ret||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports|
|Ret||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing|
|Ret||Lirim Zendeli||TJ Spee|
|DNS||Nicholas Monteiro||TJ Speed|
|Fastest lap: Johnson, 1m09.7446s