Johnson Extends USF Pro 2000 Points Lead with NOLA Perfection
 April 7, 2024| 
  • Series News
USF Pro Race 2

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Nikita Johnson was virtually in a class of his own today at NOLA Motorsports Park. The 15-year-old from Gulfport, Fla., romped to a pair of USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire victories for VRD Racing and now holds a commanding 39-point advantage in the quest for a champion’s scholarship valued at $681,500 to propel him into INDY NXT in 2025.

Yesterday’s winner Hunter Yeany (TJ Speed Motorsports), from Virginia Beach, Va., has emerged as Johnson’s closest challenger following second and third-place finishes today. Two Pabst Racing drivers shared the podium honors with 2023 USF2000 champion Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., finishing third this morning and Jace Denmark, from Brownsburg, Ind., going one better in the weekend finale.

Yeany continued this morning from where he left off yesterday by taking up his position at the head of the field after having secured his first Continental Tire Pole Award on Saturday in qualifying. The Virginian maintained his advantage both at the start and a subsequent restart after four laps due to Danny Dyszelski, from Belmont, N.C., having been involved in an incident which dumped his Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus into the gravel at Turn Six.

Soon, though, it was apparent that Johnson had the car to beat. Having started fifth and then lost a couple of positions at the initial start, Johnson quickly made up the deficit and more as he charged his way into contention. By lap 8, Johnson was on Yeany’s tail and challenging for the lead.

Remarkably, the top two raced absolutely side-by-side through several corners on lap 10, each giving the other just enough space to race cleanly. Johnson was narrowly ahead as they completed the lap, only for Yeany to regain the advantage at Turn One. A lap later, Yeany bowed to the inevitable as Johnson towed alongside on the front straight and finally made the pass stick in Turn One.

Johnson then pulled away to his second win of the season, leaving Yeany to settle for second. Johnson’s fine effort brought him a new lap record.

Sikes finished hot on Yeany’s tail in third for his best result of the season, while Canadian Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) also enjoyed a strong run to fourth.

The BN Racing duo of Nicolas Baptiste, from Bogota, Colombia, and Mexico’s Ricardo Escotto finished nose-to-tail in fifth and sixth for their best results to date.

The Tilton Hard Charger Award went to Galway, Ireland's Adam Fitzgerald (Turn 3 Motorsport), who improved six positions during he race after lining up in 19th.

The Continental Tire Pole Award for the third and final race of the weekend was taken by Johnson by virtue of his new lap record in the earlier race being faster than anyone else’s second fastest lap set during qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, Johnson rocketed into the lead at the start and immediately began pulling away.

Johnson stretched his lead to as much as 4.5 seconds following a string of fast, consistent laps before easing his pace a little in the closing stages. His eventual margin of victory was 2.8090 seconds.

In stark contrast to this season’s previous four thrilling USF Pro 2000 races, this afternoon’s encounter was rather tame. Denmark completed a strong weekend, which also included a pole position yesterday, by finishing a relatively lonely second as Yeany settled into third and once again kept Sikes at bay.

Clark and Escotto finished fifth and sixth, while Danny Dyszelski, from Belmont, N.C., claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 14th on the grid to eighth.

The PFC Award for both of today’s races were claimed by Dan Mitchell as the winning team owner.

USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire will return to action on May 9-11 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit where another tripleheader will be held in support of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES headline event.

Provisional championship points after 5 of 18 rounds:
1. Nikita Johnson, 141
2. Hunter Yeany, 102
3. Christian Brooks, 80
4. Mac Clark, 80
5. Jace Denmark, 77
6. Lochie Hughes, 75
7. Frankie Mossman, 66
8. Simon Sikes, 63
9. Liam Sceats, 63
10. Danny Dyszelski, 58

Nikita Johnson (#17 409A Direct/AnyDesk/Labrador Primary Care-VRD Racing Tatuus IP-22): “Today was great. We came away with two wins. The VRD car was really fast. In Race Two, I started P5 and didn’t get the best start. My tires were brand new and they weren’t in yet so I fell back to seventh or eighth. I had to work back through the field and once my tires came in, the car was just a rocket ship and I was able to pass everyone. We made a change from Race Two to Race Three and that made it even better. Once I broke the draft to Jace I just put my head down and focused on building a gap and that’s what I did. I want to thank everyone on the team, Dan Mitchell, Jacob Loomis, Jacob Abel, Scottie, Hugo, all my teammates, my family and everyone back home watching.”

Hunter Yeany (#27 Hard Rock/VHP-TJ Speed Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “Overall, it was a really positive day and probably one of the most positive days I have had in a while. It was a really big points haul this weekend. I think we are now second in the championship and I am really looking forward to the next rounds at Indy. We just had a fast car here all weekend starting with practice and all the races, coming out with podiums. I want to thank TJ Speed Motorsports for giving me a car to get on the podium and have a win, all my sponsors and my family.”

Simon Sikes (#18 USF Pro Championships/Mockett/Bell Racing/Sabelt-Pabst Racing Tatuus IP-22): “Like yesterday, I started up toward the front of the field and the main goal was to stay up there this time. Yesterday I was struggling on the restarts. Today, not the best initial start, but I still came out of the first lap P4. On the first Safety Car restart I managed to get a good run down the front straight and moved myself up to P3. Nikita came through on fresh tires and I learned my lesson yesterday in fighting him a little too hard. He went on his way and I was happy with my move up into P3. The car is amazing. It’s been great all weekend and I am sorry we didn’t get the result in Race One.”

Jace Denmark (#20 Pabst Racing Tatuus IP-22): “My race was boring, very boring. It was as good of a start as we could have got. We were right there with them into Turn One. Just being on pole for Turn One really seals the deal here at NOLA. I just settled in and he had a tremendous amount of pace. I feel like I had more pace on the rest of the field but no one had anything for him. It was a little bit of a head scratch for us on the pace in the races but we salvaged a good amount of points compared to St. Pete so I am really happy with this weekend.”

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