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Why one driver raced in two series last week, and the challenge it posed

by Ida Wood

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

Nikita Johnson embarked on a rarely attempted endeavour last weekend by racing in two different series.

The 15-year-old was in title contention in USF2000, which had three races at Portland, then he decided to also contest the season-ending races for the USF Pro 2000 championship at the same track. That meant two races per day for three consecutive days and a total of 135 laps of racing.

Johnson finished fourth, third and seventh in USF2000’s races, making him championship runner-up, and in USFP2000 was one of many to retire on lap one of race one but then came home second and first in the next two.

Even more impressively, the Velocity Racing Development driver had only stepped up to USFP2000 the week before at Circuit of the Americas. He finished third on debut, and became the series’ youngest ever winner in race two.

“Coming into COTA we weren’t going to do double duty at Portland. But once I won, we thought about it and it was all positives to do double duty since we already had both cars out there,” Johnson told Formula Scout.

“I couldn’t prepare too much before the last two rounds because I fractured my ankle in a go-kart… but I’ve always had great endurance so I wasn’t too worried. I prepared the same for both classes but I wanted to shine in USFP2000 so we focused more on that. The only goal for USF2000 was making sure I was vice-champion.

“I expected to win [in USFP2000] and that was the goal. I knew we had a fast car and I was good at Portland [in USF2000] in 2022.

“There wasn’t a huge difference [between the two cars] since they both have the same tub. But definitely hard to go back and forth. The USFP2000 has more downforce and tyre [grip]. We couldn’t run the same seat because of the time in between, so the seating positions were different.” But in summary: “For me it wasn’t too difficult, I was up for the challenge.”

In every instance it was scheduled there would be 15 minutes between the end of a session for one series and the start of a session for the other. That posed a health challenge, and meant Johnson missed a podium ceremony.

“[The seat time] wasn’t super physical on my body since I prepared for this. The hardest part was staying hydrated throughout the weekend. The 10-15 minutes I had between the races was hard because I had to down as much water as possible and then I would also eat some gummy bears and anything that had sugar.”

With four podiums from five starts, expectations have been raised for Johnson’s full-time USFP2000 move in 2024.

“I feel pretty good about next year, we aren’t going to slack off though just because I did well. I’m already getting back on my workout routine and preparing for winter testing. I can’t wait to get into the 2024 season, since I know without a doubt we will be a championship contender.”