Clark Remains Perfect in USF Juniors
After Barber Sweep
LEEDS, Ala. – There seems to be no stopping Mac Clark. The 18-year-old from Milton, Ont., Canada maintained his dominance of the new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series with another flag-to-flag victory this morning for DEForce Racing in the second part of the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of Alabama double-header at Barber Motorsports Park. Clark’s record of four wins from four starts has taken him into a commanding 42-point lead in his quest for a scholarship valued at over $220,000 to graduate onto the first official step of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, in 2023.
Andre Castro, from New York, N.Y., kept the pressure on Clark throughout the first half of an exciting 20-lap, incident-free race around the challenging 2.3-mile road course before settling for a first-ever podium finish for the brand-new International Motorsport team. Jeremy Fairbairn (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), from Wellington, Fla., earned his first podium finish in fine style after rising from sixth on the grid to third.
The starting positions for today’s race were set according to each driver’s second fastest lap during qualifying on Thursday, with Clark keeping his streak of Cooper Tires Pole Awards alive and Castro once again lining up alongside on the front row.
Mechanical problems unfortunately prevented both Alessandro De Tullio, from Miami, Fla., who finished fourth yesterday for Velocity Racing Development, and Alan Isambard (International Motorsport), also from Miami, from starting today’s race, and then the green flag was held in abeyance after Clark’s teammate, Jake Bonilla, from San Antonio, Texas, experienced a mechanical problem on the pace lap.
After a couple of laps behind the Safety Car, Clark took off into the lead, chased by Castro who remained hot on his heels through the opening portion of the race. The two leaders traded fastest race laps as they quickly broke away from a large pack disputing third place.
Impressively, Clark found a little bit extra speed on all but one of the first 12 laps. Castro remained in his wheel tracks virtually the entire time, only to then slip back as the Canadian maintained his torrid pace out front.
Clark earned another maximum score of 33 points after establishing a new lap record of 1:27.354 on the 12th lap on his way to collecting a fourth straight PFC Award for DEForce Racing team principals David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
Castro slipped back a little in second but still finished well clear of Fairbairn, who initially profited from De Tullio failing to take the start before fighting his way past Velocity Racing Development teammates Sam Corry, from Cornelius, N.C., and Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla., inside the first six laps.
Corry slipped to sixth in the early stages before displacing both Californian Ethan Ho (DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports) and Johnson during a thrilling race-long battle to reclaim fourth at the finish and keep his title aspirations alive.
Johnson ended the race in fifth ahead of last year’s FRP Formula 1600 Championship winner Nicholas d’Orlando (DC Autosport with Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., who drove impressively through the midfield pack to finish sixth after starting 11th.
Up next for USF Juniors is a visit to yet another of this country’s most challenging and scenic road courses, Virginia International Raceway, in Alton, Va., for a trio of races the weekend of June 4/5.
Provisional championship points after 4 of 16 races:
1. Mac Clark, 130
2. Sam Corry, 89
3. Andre Castro, 80
4. Nikita Johnson, 79
5. Jeremy Fairbairn, 62
6. Alessandro De Tullio, 59
7. Ethan Ho, 50
8. Noah Ping, 46
9. Elliot Cox, 45
10. Titus Sherlock, 44
Mac Clark (#17 MIR Raceline USA/Sekanskin/Valkyrie AI-DEForce Racing Ligier JS): “DEForce Valkyrie gave me another amazing car, and I’m so happy to bring it home today. We had a really good jump off pole and from there, it was just a matter of keeping my head down, keeping Andre behind me and taking care of those Cooper tires. They don’t call this the ‘Alabama roller coaster’ for nothing. Taking care of the left front was important but the tires are so durable so it really wasn’t an issue in the end. It’s great to come away with maximum championship points. It might be easy to get complacent after four in a row but I have to keep working hard. Lots of hard work, lots of video review, lots of data – we’ve started the season strong, we just have to keep it going.”
Andre Castro (#23 Doug Mockett & Company-International Motorsports Ligier JS): “I’ve done races on the Road to Indy for five years, so it’s great to finally get a podium. I’m so grateful to have the support of International Racing, they’re 100 percent committed to running at the front. After Ozarks, we knew we could do better so it’s great to get the second-place finish. I got close to Mac in the beginning but he did a great job of managing it. We’ll keep working to see what I can do better and how we can get the car better, but I know we can take some wins.”
Jeremy Fairbairn (#87 City Moves/Ayrton Lighting/GearSource.com-Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS): “After [a heavy crash] last weekend, this means everything. It was a tough race but I definitely had the pace to be at the front. It’s tough that Mac and Andre were so far ahead but given everything that happened last weekend, we’ll take a third place. The series has such great competitors and the Cooper tire is a very different tire than I have raced, so it’s been a learning experience. It’s been a great weekend; I love this track – it’s one of my favorites. The team and I have worked so hard and I have the best sponsors, I can’t thank them enough.”
About USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires: USF Juniors debuts in 2022 as a pre-step to the highly acclaimed Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires driver development platform, a clear-cut path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Owned and operated by Andersen Promotions with sanctioning from USAC Racing, the entry level series is professionally run to Road to Indy standards providing the necessary training on and off the track to drivers as young as 14 years of age. A prize package of over $310,000 is on offer including a scholarship valued at more than $220,000 for its champion to advance to the first step of the ladder – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – in 2023. For more information, visit usfjuniors.com.
About Cooper Tire: Cooper Tire, a subsidiary of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (Nasdaq: GT), specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of passenger car, light truck, medium truck, motorcycle and racing tires. Cooper is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, with manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations located in more than one dozen countries around the world. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire, a development program within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Cooper can also be seen on the track in rally, rallycross and short course off-road racing. Connect with Cooper on Twitter and Instagram by following @TeamCooperTire or visit http://www.coopertire.com.
About The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company: Goodyear is one of the world’s largest tire companies. It employs about 62,000 people and manufactures its products in 46 facilities in 21 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to http://www.goodyear.com/corporate.