2023 PREVIEW - USF PRO 2000

This weekend the USF Pro 2000 Championship starts into its new season on the Streets of St. Petersburg. In this preview you will get an overview of all teams and their drivers, the season calendar, spring training and more. At the end you will find as usual a small prediction from my side for the driver and team championships.


A total of 19 drivers will be competing full time in eight different teams this year. With TJ Speed Motorsports, we also have a new team in the USF Pro 2000, and with two Europeans, they also bring one of the most interesting driver pairings of all the teams. The defending champions in the drivers' championship are Exclusive Autosport, who took the title last year with Louis Foster. The reigning team champions from Juncos Hollinger Racing are not competing this year. They are focusing on Indycar and Indy NXT.


DEForce Racing

Kiko Porto, Bijoy Garg


DEForce Racing enters the new season with two familiar drivers. For Francisco "Kiko" Porto, this will be his fifth year with the team, having competed in F4 US and USF 2000 with DEForce already. In 2019, he was runner-up in his debut year in F4 US and in 2021 he won the USF 2000 championship in his second attempt. Having already finished on the podium three times last year, winning one of those races, the Brazilian is certainly one of the contenders for the drivers' title this year. His teammate this season is Bijoy Garg. Having already contested four USF Pro races at the end of last year, the American is now starting his first full season in the championship. With DEForce, he finished ninth in last year's USF 2000 championship and was on the podium twice in a total of fifteen races.


Exclusive Autosport

Yuven Sundaramoorthy, Joel Granfors, Lindsay Brewer, Salvador De Alba


The Exclusive Autopsort team enters the new season with four drivers. Yuven Sundaramoorthy enters his second USF Pro 2000 season after competing with Pabst Racing last year and finishing tenth in the championship with three podiums. In 2021, he finished third in the USF 2000 Championship, winning four races in the process. Joel Granfors is contesting his first season on the Road To Indy this year. The 17-year-old raced in British GB3 last year where he finished runner-up with two wins and eleven podiums. In 2020, he won both Formula Nordic and the Aquila Synergy Cup in his native Sweden. Lindsay Brewer enters her second season with Exclusive in the USF Pro 2000, with her best race result in her debut season being an eighth-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rounding out the team this year is Salvador De Alba. He won NASCAR PEAK Mexico in 2021 and already competed in USF Pro 2000 last year. The Mexican won two races with JHDD, was on the podium four times and finished eighth in the championship.


Jay Howard Driver Development

Ricardo Escotto, Reece Ushijima


Jay Howard Driver Development, last season's second best team, has two drivers on the grid this year who have already raced in Europe. Ricardo Escotto has only one full year of experience in feeder series racing. Last year, the Mexican competed with Cram Motorsport in the Spanish F4 Championship and scored a total of four points in 18 races. He also competed in Formula 4 UAE at the beginning of 2021. His teammate has already completed a few more races. Reece Ushijima last raced with Van Amersfoort Racing in FIA Formula 3 and finished on the podium once last season. Before that, the Japanese-American dual citizen had already competed in British and Asian Formula 3, among others. For both drivers, this will be their first year on the racetracks of the United States.


NeoTech Motorsport

Nicholas Monteiro


Nicholas Monteiro is making his Road To Indy debut with NeoTech Motorsport this year. The American-Brazilian dual citizen competed in Brazilian Formula 4 last year, where he finished on the podium four times and ended the championship in eighth place. He also contested a number of races in the Brazilian Formula Delta.


Pabst Racing

Jordan Missig, Jace Denmark


Pabst Racing will be competing with three drivers this year. For two of the three drivers, it will be their first races in the USF Pro 2000. For Jordan Missig, it will be his second year in the championship and on the Road To Indy. The American from Channahon, Illinois finished eleventh last season with Pabst Racing. In 2021, he competed in Formula Regional Americas, where he won one race, finished on the podium six times and finished the championship in fifth place. One of his teammates this season is Jace Denmark. The driver from Phoenix, Arizona is competing in his debut year in the USF Pro 2000, having raced in the USF 2000 Championship the past two years where he took four race wins, finished on the podium ten times and finished third in the championship last year. He was still battling for the title with teammate Rowe and eventual champion d'Orlando until the final races.


Pabst Racing with Force Indy

Myles Rowe


Myles Rowe enters the new year with the support of Force Indy and is competing in his first USF Pro 2000 season with Pabst Racing. Last year he raced in USF 2000 where he won five races, finished on the podium another five times and finished the championship as runner-up. Back in 2021, he already made history by becoming the first African American to win a race in USF 2000.


TJ Speed Motorsports

Francesco Pizzi, Christian Weir, Lirim Zendeli


TJ Speed Motorsports has bought the cars from Juncos Hollinger Racing and is entering its very first season in USF Pro 2000. Tim Neff's team will start with two drivers from Europe and one American. Francesco Pizzi was still competing in FIA Formula 3 with Charouz Racing System last year. His best result was a tenth place in the sprint race at Imola. In 2020, the Italian won the F4 UAE Championship on his debut and finished runner-up in Italian Formula 4 later in the season. Christian Weir also enters his first USF Pro 2000 season. The 16-year-old from Naperville, Illinois finished eighth in last year's USF 2000 Championship, finishing on the podium twice. Rounding out the team is Lirim Zendeli. The German racer with a Macedonian-Albanian background has mainly competed on the Road To F1 in Formula 2 and FIA F3 in recent years. In 2018, he won the German ADAC Formula 4 Championship.


Turn 3 Motorsport

Michael d'Orlando, Jonathan Browne, Jackson Lee, Christian Brooks


Turn 3 Motorsports has confirmed three drivers for the full year so far, but is entering the new season with a fourth car. Michael d'Orlando will contest his first year in the USF Pro 2000 Championship in 2023. The reigning USF 2000 champion has already won eight races on the Road To Indy and has finished on the podium a total of 21 times. In all three years in USF 2000, he has been among the drivers who have raced for wins and podiums. One of his teammates for this year is Johnathan Browne. The Irishman is entering his second season with the team on the Road To Indy. Last year he finished twelfth in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship. In 2019, he won the British BRSCC Formula Ford Festival. Rounding out the team full-time is Jackson Lee. The 20-year-old from Indianapolis is competing in his debut year in USF Pro 2000, having raced the past two years and finishing fifteenth in the championship last year. The fourth car will be driven by Christian Brooks on the first weekend in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The Onlyfans sponsored racer had actually planned his USF Pro debut last year with Exclusive Autosport. However, he did not compete in one race. In 2020 and 2021, the American was one of the drivers competing for race wins and podiums in USF 2000. In 2019, he also finished third in the F4 US Championship and won a feature race during the F1 US Grand Prix weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.


Miller Vinatieri Motorsport

Jack William Miller


Of course, Jack William Miller is also back on the grid this year with Miller Vinatieri Motorsport. This year he is already contesting his third season in the USF Pro 2000 Championship. The 19-year-old from Indianapolis made the podium twice last season and finished ninth overall. After a total of four years, he is still waiting for his first race win on the Road To Indy.


As in the previous season, 18 USF Pro 2000 races will be held again this year at nine different race tracks. The second stop on the race calendar is Sebring International Raceway in Florida. Last year, this slot was held by Barber Motorsports Park. Also the penultimate race weekend will take place at a different venue than in 2022. Instead of the oval race at World Wide Technology Raceway, two races will be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. This means that with the Freedom 90 at Lucas Oil Raceway, there is now only one oval race on the USF Pro 2000 calendar.


Round 1/2: Streets of St. Petersburg (4-5 March)


Round 3/4: Sebring International Raceway (25-26 March)


Round 5/6: Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Road Course (12-13 May)


Round 7: Lucas Oil Raceway (27 May)


Round 8/9: Road America (17-18 June)


Round 10/11: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (1-2 July)


Round 12/13: Exhibition Place - Toronto (15-16 July)


Round 14/15: Circuit of the Americas (26-27 August)


Round 16/17/18: Portland International Raceway (2-3 September)


Each race weekend includes a different number of races. Only one race will be held at Lucas Oil Raceway. In most cases, however, two races will be held each weekend, with the exception of the season finale at Portland International Raceway, where three races will be held.


The following points are awarded in the oval race: P1 = 45, P2 = 38, P3 = 33, P4 = 29, P5 = 26, P6 = 23, P7 = 21, P8 = 20, P9 = 18, P10 = 17, P11 = 15, P12 = 14, P13 = 12, P14 = 11, P15 = 9, P16 = 8, P17 = 6, P18 = 5, P19 = 3, P20 = 2.


For a road race, the following points are awarded:

P1 = 30, P2 = 25, P3 = 22, P4 = 19, P5 = 17, P6 = 15, P7 = 14, P8 = 13, P9 = 12, P10 = 11, P11 = 10, P12 = 9, P13 = 8, P14 = 7, P15 = 6, P16 = 5, P17 = 4, P18 = 3, P19 = 2, P20 = 1.


In addition, there are extra points to be won in each race. One point is awarded to the driver who lead the most laps, one point is awarded to the driver with the fastest race lap and one point is awarded for pole position.


For the USF Pro 2000 teams & drivers, it was off to Spring Training at Sebring International Raceway this week. Two practice sessions on Monday and two practice sessions on Tuesday. Each of the four practice sessions lasted 45 minutes, meaning that one and a half hours were spent on the track on both days. The busiest of all drivers was JHDD's Reece Ushijima with 57 laps completed. At the top, a familiar picture from last year's USF 2000 championship emerged. The two Pabst Racing teammates Rowe and Denmark set the fastest lap times. And the reigning USF 2000 champion Michael d'Orlando is not too far away in fourth place either.


Test Results

P1: Myles Rowe - Pabst Racing / 1m58.669s

P2: Jace Denmark - Pabst Racing / +0.086s

P3: Kiko Porto - DEForce / +0.157s

P4: Michael d'Orlando - Turn 3 / +0.389s

P5: Christian Brooks - Turn 3 / +0.473s

P6: Jordan Missig - Pabst Racing / +0.479s

P7: Lirim Zendeli - TJ Speed / +0.782s

P8: Francesco Pizzi - TJ Speed / +0.803s

P9: Reece Ushijima - JHDD / +0.872s

P10: Joel Granfors - Exclusive / +0.929s


As I already did with Indy Pro 2000 last year, I dare to make predictions for this year's USF Pro 2000 driver and team championships.


Drivers Championship Prediction


P1: Myles Rowe

P2: Kiko Porto

P3: Jace Denmark

P4: Michael d'Orlando

P5: Lirim Zendeli


I count four drivers among the favorites for the drivers' championship this year. These include the two Pabst Racing drivers Myles Rowe and Jace Denmark, as well as Kiko Porto and Michael d'Orlando. My money would be on Rowe to win the championship. However, any of the four could win the title. For the European drivers like Lirim Zendeli, Francesco Pizzi or Joel Granfors it will probably take them a few races to adapt to the new cars and tracks. Nevertheless, I have confidence that they will be able to fight for victories and podiums, especially towards the end of the season.


Teams Championship Prediction


P1: Pabst Racing

P2: DEForce Racing

P3: TJ Speed Motorsports


In the battle for the team championship, I see Pabst Racing ahead this year. Rowe and Denmark already managed to win the team championship last year in the USF 2000 and look highly motivated to repeat this victory one step higher. Behind them I think DEForce, TJ Speed and Turn 3 will fight for the other places. Exclusive and Miller Vinatieri will complete the midfield.


And next Saturday, the first race of the season already starts!

written by Claudio Graf  / 1st March, 2023