Hughes Takes Timely Double and USF Pro 2000 Point Lead
 June 9, 2024| 
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Lochie Hughes and the Illinois-based Turn 3 Motorsport team enjoyed a banner day at Road America, winning two of the three races that will comprise this weekend’s Elite Engines Grand Prix of Road America. The talented Australian also vaulted into a clear lead in his quest for the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship and a scholarship valued at $681,500 to graduate to INDY NXT in 2025.

Frankie Mossman (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Newport Beach, Calif., and Mexico’s Ricardo Escotto (BN Racing) finished second and third in the opening race, while Pabst Racing’s Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., and New Zealander Liam Sceats (TJ Speed Motorsports) completed the podium later in the day.

Hughes began the weekend trailing early season pacesetter Nikita Johnson by a single championship point, although he quickly erased that deficit by virtue of securing the Continental Tire Pole Award for today’s opening race during the first of two qualifying sessions on Friday.

A cloudy sky and threatening clouds greeted the USF Pro 2000 contenders early this morning when they lined up on the grid, but thankfully the rain was kept at bay for the majority – but not quite all – of the 15-lap race.

Hughes duly led the 21-car field up the hill toward the starter’s awaiting green flag shortly after 8:00 a.m., but it was outside front row starter Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., who grasped the early initiative for Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Pabst Racing when he drove around the outside of the Australian at the first corner.

Last year’s USF2000 champion held the lead for almost exactly one lap before Hughes regained the advantage at the same corner. Shortly afterward, Mossman relegated Sikes to third place at Turn Five, then began to put the pressure on Hughes for the lead.

Mossman momentarily gained the upper hand when he drafted past Hughes into Turn One on lap 11, but his decision to take a defensive line subsequently at Turn Three cost him valuable momentum and allowed Hughes to regain the advantage on the long run downhill toward Turn Five.

Mossman intensified his challenge in the closing stages as spots of rain began to fall. For most of the final lap, Hughes felt obliged to adopt a defensive line under braking to minimize any opportunity for Mossman to wrest away his lead. The ploy worked to perfection, although both leaders – and everyone behind – was almost caught off guard when the rain drops rapidly intensified as they negotiated the critical Carousel corner at Turn Eight.

The top contenders all made it through safely, then treated the notorious Road America kink with the utmost respect as they made their way toward the checkered flag at significantly reduced pace.

Hughes duly held on to secure a well-judged victory, his second of the season but first since the very first race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March. Behind, Mossman followed in an impressive second, for his first-ever podium finish, while Sikes’ attempt to wrest away second place went awry at the final corner when he ran out of racing room, strayed two wheels onto the grass and spun.

Escotto inherited third, his first podium since joining BN Racing, after narrowly fending off the Pabst Racing pair of Jace Denmark, from Brownsburg, Ind., and Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., on the dash to the line.

Brazil’s Nicolas Monteiro earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award following an impressive drive to 11th after starting dead last.

Sikes looked to make amends later in the day, starting at the front after having claimed the Continental Tire Pole Award during a second qualifying session on Friday. The race started out well for Sikes as he fought off a challenge from teammate Brooks, but after a couple of early caution periods due to incidents further down the field, he was unable to stay with the leaders and slipped back down the field before once again crashing out on the final lap.

After losing a place on the opening lap, Hughes quickly worked his way forward once the race began in earnest, moving to the front on lap 11 and controlling the remainder of the 15-lap contest.

Brooks enjoyed his best result since also finishing second in the opening race of the season, crossing the line just 1.1288 seconds behind the winner, but the drive of the race came from Sceats, who catapulted himself from 14th on the grid to sixth in the early stages. The Kiwi continued his charge forward to take the checkered flag in third, narrowly ahead of Denmark.

Sceats comfortably pocketed the Tilton Hard Charger Award for his efforts, while Turn 3 Motorsport’s Peter Dempsey capped his team’s magnificent day with a pair of PFC Awards as the winning car owner.

One more race is on tap for this weekend’s busy slate of action, with the 12th round of the 18-race season set to see the green flag at 10:00 a.m.

Provisional championship points after 11 of 18 rounds:
1. Lochie Hughes, 240
2. Nikita Johnson, 200
3. Jace Denmark, 199
4. Liam Sceats, 189
5. Christian Brooks, 181
6. Braden Eves, 150
7. Hunter Yeany, 148
8. Danny Dyszelski, 145
9. Frankie Mossman, 140
10. Ricardo Escotto, 132

Lochie Hughes (#44 The McGinley Group/Private Wealth Planning/Grip Auto Timepieces-Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a pretty good day – two wins – and you can’t ask for much more than that. It was two really tough races. The races around here are really tough with the big slipstreams. You just have to be so disciplined and not make any mistakes. We definitely had the quickest car today so I could push my own air faster than anyone else could. Everyone else could just stay with me in the tow. I am super happy and grateful to be able to come here this weekend and get two wins. And hopefully, keep a consistent run going for the rest of the season.”

Frankie Mossman (#6 Shop GLD/Offset Sport/Stilo/Simpson-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus IP-22): “The race was great. I think it was the drizzle at the end that hurt us. The car was so fast. I thought midway through coming in on the new tires, that we were just going to get at him (Hughes). It was a little more difficult once we got to him with the aero wash and the outside line not really working because of the rain. I hope we can put it to him in the next two races and I am really excited. I am really happy for the team because they put in so much work, especially into me. I am very inexperienced so this shows a lot for the program and Jay Howard Driver Development to be running up front like this.”

Ricardo Escotto (#77 BN Racing Tatuus IP-22): “It was a really good race, running all the race in fourth and just waiting for a mistake. On the last lap, on the last corner, it happened. I am very happy with the team and the work that we did. We were fast but just not fast enough to be fighting with the top three all the race. But we got it this time and we are really happy. Two more races, two more chances so for sure we will be fighting.”

Christian Brooks (#19 BUCKED UP/Deploy Surveillance-Pabst Racing Tatuus IP-22): “All and all a good race. Obviously, you want to be one further up but with the past few races that we have had, this is definitely a big improvement. The team gave me a really good car. Lochie has been on rails. I flat spotted my left front at the beginning and that definitely hindered my speed all around but I think I know what we need to do for tomorrow and give them a fight.”

Liam Sceats (#26 Tony Quinn Foundation/Omega Rental Cars-TJ Speed Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “It was not what I expected in all honesty. Fourteenth to third was pretty insane and amazing. We have been struggling all weekend and a credit for this result is to the team, TJ Speed Motorsports. We have put in a lot of hard work. It has been a tough few days but we finally have it right. A big thank you to all of my sponsors back home who allow me to do this. I wouldn’t be here without them and super happy with the result.”
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