VRD Sweeps the Day as Johnson Takes USF Pro 2000 Victory
 May 10, 2024| 
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Indy_USF Pro Race 1
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Nikita Johnson and VRD Racing are on a roll. The 15-year-old rising star from Gulfport, Fla., today scored his fourth victory in a row when he once again showed a clean rear wing to his USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire rivals and comfortably won the first of three races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course which will comprise the VP Racing Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Ditto his VRD Racing team, which also won the USF2000 race earlier this afternoon.

New Zealand rookie Liam Sceats finished a distant second for TJ Speed Motorsports, earning his best finish of the young season, while fellow Antipodean Lochie Hughes, from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, bounced back to form with a strong run to third for Turn 3 Motorsport.

Johnson served notice of his intentions this morning as he set the fastest time in qualifying to secure his second Continental Tire Pole Award of the season. Sceats lined up alongside with Exclusive Autosport’s Braden Eves, who now resides in Indianapolis, and DEForce Racing’s Mac Clark of Milton, Ont., Canada rounding out the second row.

The start saw a reshuffle of positions with Eves suffering the worst of the affair after going into the cut off in Turn One to avoid contact and rejoining in 10th position. Johnson briefly lost the lead to Sceats but regained the point in time for Lap 2, which saw contact between Clark and Hunter Yeany (TJ Speed Motorsports). Clark’s damage ended his day while Yeany, of Virginia Beach, Va, was shuffled back down the order after starting sixth.

Over the course of the next few laps, several cars made off-course excursions but it wasn’t until Lap 5 when the first caution flag flew as Frankie Mossman (Jay Howard Driver Development) ground to a halt in Turn 6. By this stage, everyone in the top five in points was having issues with the exception of Johnson.

Eves’ day continued to worsen as contact in Turn 7 on Lap 8 brought out a second caution and ended his day. Jace Denmark of Pabst Racing, who was running seventh, was penalized for the avoidable contact and sent to the back of the field.

The race resumed on Lap 11 and all eyes were on the ensuing battles mid-pack, including a sensational drive by Simon Sikes of Pabst Racing, who started last after an incident in qualifying and had worked his way up into the mix in seventh – earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award along the way with a gain of 14 positions.

The remaining laps were caution free with Johnson romping to a lead of over four seconds when the checkered flags flew. Ricardo Escotto – a winner last year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – finished a fine fourth for BN Racing to claim his best result of the season to date with Yeany rounding out the top five.

The PFC Award once again was claimed by Dan Mitchell as the winning team owner.

Two more 25-lap races will take place tomorrow on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit with green flags slated for 7:55 a.m. EDT and 12 noon.

Provisional championship points after 6 of 18 rounds:
1. Nikita Johnson, 174
2. Hunter Yeany, 119
3. Lochie Hughes, 97
4. Christian Brooks, 93
5. Liam Sceats, 88
6. Jace Denmark, 86
7. Mac Clark, 81
8 Simon Sikes, 77
9. Ricardo Escotto, 72
10. Nicolas Baptiste, 71

Nikita Johnson (#17 409A Direct/AnyDesk/Labrador Primary Care-VRD Racing Tatuus IP-22): “The race was really good. We started P1 but unfortunately lost the lead at the start when we went three wide. I was able to get back around Liam and just focus on getting clean laps. There were a couple of restarts and I just kept it out front and kept them behind me and drove my VRD car to the end. I was the first to hit the checkered flag line. A great day overall and I can’t thank the VRD boys enough. Also, thanks to my dad for being here and my mom and brother watching back home and all of my sponsors. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Liam Sceats (#Tony Quinn Foundation/Omega Rental Cars-TJ Speed Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “It was a good race. The start was really important. We managed to get into the lead and I am not really sure how. I think at one point we were going three wide. Early on I struggled a bit for rear grip and that allowed Nikita to have that edge on me. I lost out to Lochie as well and dropped to P3, but the pace from mid to end was really good. I think we were one of the quickest on track behind Nikita if not the same, so I was really happy about that. The TJ Speed Motorsports crew gave me a car capable of winning today, but I just couldn’t get it done. I’ll focus on tomorrow to jump up the podium one more step.”

Lochie Hughes (#44 Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22): “A decent race. I started fifth and got to third pretty early on in the race. We seemed quite good on pace. It was a bit tricky out there. I think the track was a bit different. We hadn’t driven on it that hot, so the car was moving around a bit. I was able to lunge Liam and start to chase down Nikita and then it went Safety Car. I had a go on the restart and ended up losing a couple of positions. I came back to third in the end and brought it home.”
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