The second season of the USF Juniors Championship came to an end on the last weekend of August at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Drivers from six different teams dueled in their new Tatuus JR-23 cars on six different circuits. As in the previous year, the final decision in the battle for the championship was not made until the final round of the season. After last year's title went to the Canadian Mac Clark, this season the Brazilian Nicolas Giaffone was crowned champion. But let's go through the season again. Weekend by weekend.




After long preparation and several test drives, the time had finally come at the end of March and the drivers & teams of the USF Juniors Championship started their 2023 season at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. In the first qualifying session of the year, Exclusive Autosport's Joey Brienza took pole position by half a second. In Race 1 of the still young season, Quinn Armstrong from DEForce Racing managed to fight his way from sixth on the grid to the very top. The podium was completed by Joey Brienza in second and Jack Jeffers in third. Pole setter Brienza also had to admit defeat to another driver in the second race. DEForce driver Nicolas Giaffone celebrated his first race win ahead of Brienza and Jeffers. In the third and last race of the weekend it finally worked out for the fastest man over one lap. Joey Brienza won the race and left Sebring as the championship leader. Giaffone secured another podium finish in second, followed by Velocity Racing Development driver Jimmie Lockhart.




A good month later, the action continued with two races at Barber Motorsports Park at the end of April. The weekend in Birmingham, Alabama was the only one with direct points of contact with the Indycar racing series. USF Juniors drivers opened the race weekend with their races on Thursday and Friday. DEForce Racing was the dominant team in both qualifying sessions. For both the first and second races, Nicolas Giaffone started ahead of teammates Lucas Fecury and Quinn Armstrong. Giaffone, however, was unbeatable on these days. The Brazilian won both races in superior fashion and took the lead in the championship, which he will not relinquish until the end of the season. Quinn Armstrong finished twice in second place. Lucas Fecury took his first podium of the season in Race 1 in third. Only Velocity RD driver Jimmie Lockhart managed to break DEForce's dominance and finish the second race in third place.




At the beginning of June, it was off to Virginia International Raceway in Alton. In qualifying, both Ethan Ho and Jack Jeffers secured their first pole positions for races 1 and 2. In the third race, Nicolas Giaffone started from the top. The Brazilian was hard to crack in the races this weekend again. He won the first race ahead of Jack Jeffers and Quinn Armstrong, in the second race he triumphed ahead of Joey Brienza and Hudson Schwartz, who celebrated his first podium finish in the USF Juniors. In the third and final race, Jack Jeffers took his first win after standing on the podium three times already. After an early race caution, Jeffers worked his way from fifth to the race lead within four laps, which he never relinquished. Giaffone secured another podium spot in second. Velocity RD driver Max Taylor managed to celebrate his first podium of the season in third place.




In July the series continued with two races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. The first race was dominated by Nicolas Giaffone from qualifying, to the fastest race lap, to the race win. He expanded his lead in the championship with his sixth win in the ninth race. Second place in the first race went to Quinn Armstrong, while Jack Jeffers crossed the finish line in third. In qualifying for the second race, Hudson Schwartz managed to take the pole position for the first time. After holding the lead for most of the race and also burning the fastest lap into the asphalt, he was caught by Quinn Armstrong before the end of the race. The Australian celebrated his second victory after his success at the start of the season. The podium was completed by Ethan Ho. The DC Autosport driver took his first podium of the season in third place.




One month later, the penultimate weekend of the season was underway at Road America in Wisconsin. Nicolas Giaffone had the opportunity to win the championship title early on, provided he extended his lead by a further 33 points. In qualifying, however, he only finished fourth behind his rival Armstrong on pole position, as well as Taylor and Ingratta. The next setback for Giaffone came at the start of the first race, when he was almost hit by another driver, he had to escape through the grass and fell back to the end of the field. As the race progressed he worked his way up to sixth place while Quinn Armstrong celebrated his third win of the season ahead of Jack Jeffers and Joey Brienza. Canadian Ayden Ingratta, who made his debut in the race series this weekend, started from pole position in the second race thanks to the fastest race lap in Race 1. However, the lead did not last long, with Jack Jeffers securing his second win of the year ahead of Giaffone and Lockhart. Even though the chances of success were very slim, Giaffone still had the opportunity to decide the title fight early in the last race. For that, however, he almost needed Armstrong and Jeffers to drop out. However, the two finished the race in eighth (Armstrong) and third (Jeffers) place, meaning that the championship would not be decided until the season finale. Giaffone started on pole position but was beaten by Max Taylor as the race progressed. The Velocity RD driver finally managed to take his first win of the season.




Just two weeks later, the season finale took place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Exclusive Autosport's Jack Jeffers was fastest in both practice and qualifying and secured pole position for all three races. He won the first race despite tough wheel-to-wheel duels with Max Taylor. Taylor took second place ahead of Giaffone, putting the latter on the verge of clinching the championship. After Armstrong had to pit early in the race, Jeffers was now the only one who could have at least mathematically prevented the Brazilian from winning the title. After the second race, however, everything was decided in favour of Nicolas Giaffone. In the battle for the race win, Jeffers and Giaffone collided and fell back, which meant that the race win went to Jimmie Lockhart. Completing the podium were Quinn Armstrong in second and Joey Brienza in third. In the final race of the season, Jimmie Lockhart managed to take the top spot on the second restart after several crashes. He won his second race in a row ahead of Jack Jeffers and Quinn Armstrong. Jeffers was penalised afterwards, losing both his second place in the third race and the runner-up title. While Armstrong inherited second place in the race, Hudson Schwartz moved up to third.


Nicolas Giaffone


The Brazilian already impressed in his first year on the "Road To Indy". With a total of six victories and eleven podium finishes, he completely deservedly secured the title in the drivers' championship. Last year, when Giaffone completed his debut season in Brazilian Formula 4, he already caught my eye. His speed was already evident then, but his results were still too inconsistent. At that time, he still made too many mistakes to actually get involved in the championship fight. With the experience of this year he was able to improve his performance in the United States. Early in the season it was clear that it would be difficult to beat him. On the second weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, he took the lead with two wins from two races, which he never relinquished. And after his sixth victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it was clear to everyone that Nicolas would win the championship this year.


Jack Jeffers


Jack Jeffers also impressed in his first USF Juniors year. The American was able to win three races and stood on the podium a total of nine times. After winning the Lucas Oil Car Race Series last year, he seamlessly took his speed to a faster race series. The American finished third on the podium twice directly in his debut weekend at Sebring International Raceway. He had to wait a little for his first victory, but celebrated it in the third race at Virginia International Raceway.


Quinn Armstrong


Although Quinn Armstrong was already competing in his second season in the USF Juniors Championship, he was able to improve significantly compared to last season. After failing to score a single podium finish last year, he started the new season directly with a victory in the first race at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. With a total of three wins and five more podium places, he secured the runner-up title in the duel against Jeffers. With a little more consistency, the Australian could well have fought for the title against his teammate Giaffone.


Jimmie Lockhart


Jimmie Lockhart celebrated his first victory in the F4 US Championship at the beginning of the year before concentrating fully on the USF Juniors Championship. He collected two victories and three further podium finishes in the course of the season. His final breakthrough came on the last weekend of the season at the Circuit of the Americas, where he won two of the three races. Before that, he finished third at Sebring, Barber Motorsports Park and Road America. If Jimmie can build on his form from last weekend over a full season, I think he's a candidate for the USF Juniors title or even the USF 2000 championship next year.


Max Taylor


After entering the national karting scene just last year, Max Taylor immediately made his debut in car racing this year. After a second-place finish in the Yacademy Winter Series at the beginning of the year, he was also able to gain a foothold in the USF Juniors Championship quite quickly. The American celebrated his first podium finish as third in the third race at Virgina International Raceway. His first victory finally came in the third race at Road America. At the Circuit of the Americas, he was on the podium again in second place in the first race. The boy from Connecticut is definitely extremely fast, but he still lacks the necessary consistency to be at the forefront of a championship battle.


Hudson Schwartz


The same can probably be said about Hudson Schwartz. The rookie from Washington, D.C., has made it onto the podium three times this year. After missing the first race weekend, he made his debut at Barber Motorsports Park. One round later, he took his first podium in third place in the second race at Virginia International Raceway. His second podium came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he started the race from pole position, set the fastest lap and led most of the laps. However, he had to settle for second place shortly before the end. In the last race of the season at the Circuit of the Americas, he was able to celebrate another podium finish in third place.


Ayden Ingratta


Last but not least, Ayden Ingratta also caught my eye. The young Canadian only competed with JHDD on Road America for one weekend, but he was among the fastest from the start. Even though he wasn't able to convert the good starting positions in the races, his fastest lap in race one and the pole position in race two remain in my memory.


P1: Nicolas Giaffone / 389

P2: Quinn Armstrong / 324

P3: Jack Jeffers / 313

P4: Jimmie Lockhart / 292

P5: Joey Brienza / 280

P6: Max Taylor / 236

P7: Ethan Barker / 228

P8: Hudson Schwartz / 208

P9: Lucas Fecury / 206

P10: Brady Golan / 202

P11: Erick Schotten / 199

P12: Carson Etter / 155

P13: Giovanni Cabrera / 140

P14: Ethan Ho / 134

P15: Hudson Potter / 50

P16: Ava Dobson / 28

P17: Bianca Bustamante / 27

P18: Aidan Potter / 26

P19: Connor Roberts / 22

P20: Ayden Ingratta / 21

P21: Dane Scott / 20

P22: Juan Felipe Pedraza / 18


P1: DEForce Racing / 502

P2: Exclusive Autosport / 425

P3: Velocity RD /  406

P4: DC Autosport / 160

P5: Jay Howard Driver Development / 47

P6: Ram Racing Team / 14

written by Claudio Graf  / 29th August, 2023