Sebring notebook: Who can stop Myles Rowe?

The engines of the Sebring 12-hour endurance race had barely fallen silent as the former World War 2 airfield in south Florida got ready for a lot more racing courtesy of the USF Pro Championships. Here is our round-up of The Best and The Rest in Sebring.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

Although there was no IndyCar or Indy NXT action, all other series on the ladder formerly known as the Road to Indy descended on Sebring this past weekend. For USF Pro 2000 and USF2000, it was the second weekend of their 2023 campaign, while USF Juniors got their season underway with a triple-header.

The three fields full of IndyCar hopefuls produced plenty of spectacle, as the championship battles started taking shape and some drivers recovered from a false start in St Pete. The star of the show, however, was a certain Penske-backed young man from New York…

The Best

* The question on everyone’s lips this weekend was the one with which we started this article: can anyone keep Myles Rowe from dominating this year’s USF Pro 2000 season? Rowe made another monster start in Race 2 to take the lead, following an equally impressive climb in St. Petersburg. With four races in the books, the Pabst Racing driver has won three times and finished third once. And since his rivals have been a lot less consistent, he already has a 42-point lead atop the table. In USF2000 he was sometimes a bit incident prone, but so far Rowe has been flawless.

* It was a good weekend for Pabst Racing in general. It’s clear that Augie Pabst and his engineers have made a setup breakthrough over the winter, so marked has their improvement in USF Pro 2000 form been this season. Jace Denmark was unlucky in Race 2, but demonstrated plenty of speed and got pole for Race 1, and even Jordan Missig showed decent pace with a top-5 finish in Race 1. Pabst is clearly the team to beat in USF Pro 2000 at the moment.

14-year-old Max Garcia achieved two front-row starts and two top-7 finishes on his debut in USF2000 | Credit: Gavin Baker

* The Wisconsin-based squad was equally impressive in USF2000. Simon Sikes knew he had to sweep the weekend and almost did – two poles, a win and a second place made this a near perfect weekend for him as he continues to chase funding. And what a debut it was for 14-year-old Max Garcia, as he started from the front row alongside Sikes in both races. In the races he couldn’t quite keep up that pace, but two top-7 finishes on his series debut is very promising indeed.

Joel Granfors finished second in Race 1 in USF Pro 2000 | Credit: Gavin Baker

* As for the other contenders in USF Pro 2000, it’s clear that the Euro contingent is starting to find its feet. Francesco Pizzi and Lirim Zendeli both got a first podium in their TJ Speed machines and have nestled themselves in the top-4 of the championship, while Exclusive Autosport ace Joel Granfors celebrated a second-place finish in Race 1 and Reece Ushijima scored his first top-4 in Race 2 for JHDD. But if any of them wants to stop Rowe, they better start winning at Indianapolis in May.

* What applies to Pabst in USF Pro 2000, applies to JHDD in USF2000. Jay Howard has had little to show for his efforts over the last two seasons, but with Lochie Hughes and Evagoras Papasavvas he has a strong duo that is capable of fighting for wins and podiums. Hughes narrowly beat out Sikes in Race 1 after a fight that went down to the wire, while Papasavvas got himself another podium. Holding second and third in the standings, both are likely to be championship contenders.

* While he didn’t feature at all in St Petersburg, Elliot Cox had a strong weekend in Sebring. The Indiana youngster, driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Driver Development, qualified strong in both races and rewarded himself with a clean 7th in Race 1. In Race 2, he fought for a podium with Papasavvas, but got pinched by the JHDD driver and fell down the order. He eventually recovered well and finished a strong fifth.

* Mac Clark showed a similar trajectory: the DEForce driver and reigning USF Juniors champ was no factor in St Petersburg, but kicked off his season in earnest in Sebring. A fourth place in Race 1 was a good start, and he followed that up with a strong second in Race 2. Don’t be surprised if the young Canadian starts fighting for wins and gets involved in the title battle from here on in.

Joey Brienza achieved a win and two second-place finishes in USF Juniors | Credit: Gavin Baker

* The USF Juniors season was off to a great start. Three races without a single caution, three winners from two teams, and three of the four teams in the championship got themselves a podium finish. Quinn Armstrong got a win for DEForce, while Joey Brienza secured silverware for Exclusive with a win and two second-place finishes. Nicolas Giaffone defended the Brazilian honour with another win for DEForce, while Lucas Fecury got three top-7 finishes on his debut weekend.

* The busiest man in Sebring was without a doubt Ethan Ho. The American started the weekend with three USF Juniors races and three top-10 finishes, after which DC Autosport converted his car into a USF2000 spec machine and Ho competed in those two races as well. It’s a testament to the innovative and cost effective 3-cars-for-the-price-of-1 approach taken by series organiser Andersen Promotions: teams can buy one Tatuus chassis and race it in all three series if they want to.

The Rest

* Spare a thought for Michael d’Orlando: the reigning USF2000 champ had another difficult weekend in Sebring after a false start in St Petersburg. He suffered from technical gremlins in Race 1, and ended up spinning in Race 2 after starting from pole. 17th in the standings after four races is surely not what the New Yorker and Turn 3 Motorsport were looking for, and d’Orlando will hope for redemption in Indianapolis in May.

* Velocity Racing Development had a rough weekend in USF2000. Nikita Johnson and Zack Ping ended up hitting each other in Race 1, breaking the age-old rule to never take out your teammate. Johnson was then involved in another incident in Race 2 with Max Garcia, although he did manage to fight his way back to 8th. The other VRD drivers had a messy weekend as well: Danny Dyszelski went off track in Race 2 and finished in the back, while Sam Corry got caught up in the Papasavvas-Cox incident and did not see the checkered flag at all.

* Neither Christian Brooks or Nick d’Orlando made an appearance in Sebring due to ongoing money shortages. Brooks was actually on the entry list for USF Pro 2000, but never appeared on track. His sponsorship from social media network OnlyFans brought him to St Petersburg and his performances there seemed to warrant more support, but unfortunately the Californian is once again on the sidelines. Both drivers have until mid-May to work something out, when the series continue.

Header photo credit: Gavin Baker

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