2023 REVIEW - USF PRO 2000

The USF Pro 2000, renamed for this season, ended its season in early September at Portland International Raceway. Once again, the young drivers gave us a rousing 18 races. Let's take a look at the past season. Weekend by weekend.




On the first weekend of March the new season finally started with two races on the streets of St. Petersburg in Florida. Christian Brooks secured the pole position for the first race, which he eventually won. The podium was completed by Kiko Porto in second and Myles Rowe in third. 


In the second race, Francesco Pizzi started from pole position on his debut in the United States. However, he was then knocked off the podium in the race and finished fourth. Pabst Racing driver Myles Rowe secured his first USF Pro 2000 victory ahead of Kiko Porto and teammate Jace Denmark.




Three weeks later, the action continued at Sebring International Raceway, where Myles Rowe won both races. In qualifying, Jace Denmark secured pole position for race one. But already at the race start he had to relinquish the lead to Rowe, who passed on the inside in the first turn. As the race progressed, Joel Granfors and Francesco Pizzi worked their way up to the podium. Granfors finished second and Pizzi finished third. 


On the second day, Michael d'Orlando took pole position for race two. Francesco Pizzi started the race in the second position. But again Myles Rowe passed both of them on the inside at the race start and took the lead. Rowe dominated the race from then on and secured his third consecutive victory. The podium was completed by Lirim Zendeli in second and Kiko Porto in third.




The third race weekend of the year took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Kiko Porto secured pole position for the first race. After briefly losing the lead after the start, he still managed to lead most of the race laps thereafter. But the race was fiercely contested, with several position changes. In the end, Ricardo Escotto surprisingly managed to drive all the way to the front from his twelfth starting position and win his first race. Second place went to Reece Ushijima ahead of Michael d'Orlando in third.


The second race was started by Myles Rowe from pole position. However, a short time into the race, Rowe spun when he hit wet grass in turn seven. Another spectacular race with several position changes finally led to Joel Granfors celebrating his first victory in the United States from 18th position on the grid. Salvador De Alba in second and Jace Denmark in third completed the podium.




The seventh race of the year, the Freedom 90 at Lucas Oil Raceway, was the only oval race of the year. Traditionally, the event is held in the same week as the Indy 500. Jack William Miller secured the pole position for the race. At the start of the race, however, he had to relinquish the lead to the eventual winner Salvador De Alba, who controlled the race from then on. Behind him, Miller, Granfors and Pizzi fought a duel for the other podium places. Joel Granfors eventually prevailed in second, just ahead of Jack William Miller in third and Francesco Pizzi in fourth. The oval race ended behind the pace car after a spin by Christian Weir with 10 laps to go. But up to this point, the race had been running under green.




After three weeks, the racing continued in Wisconsin at Road America. The pole position in the first race was taken by Michael d'Orlando which he used for his first win of the year. Myles Rowe took his fifth podium of the season in second and Jordan Missig in third made it to the USF Pro 2000 podium for the first time in third. 


Christian Weir was meant to start the second race from pole position ahead of Michael d'Orlando. But already after the warm-up lap Weir and d'Orlando had to pit because they banged wheels. So Lirim Zendeli took the lead which he converted to his first victory in the United States. Kiko Porto finished second and Jonathan Browne took his first podium of the year finishing third.




At the beginning of July, the action continued at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Michael d'Orlando seems to have finally arrived in the new race series and secured the pole position for race one once again. The race was shortened due to rain. During the handful of laps Michael d'Orlando was able to defend his lead and take his second win of the year. Jace Denmark finished second ahead of Jack William Miller.

The second race was started by Myles Rowe from pole position. After a tough battle with Kiko Porto, he hold off to took his fourth win of the season ahead of the Brazilian. Michael d'Orlando completed the podium in third place.




The last stop before the summer break was the weekend in Toronto, Canada. Myles Rowe took pole position for both races. He controlled the first race from the lead until the end of the 20th of 25 laps. Then rain started and the race was interrupted so everyone could change to wet tires. On the restart, Rowe overshot in the first turn and rejoined the field in tenth place. In the end, he finished the race in seventh. At the front, Michael d'Orlando secured victory ahead of Salvador De Alba and Lirim Zendeli.


At the start of the second race there was a big crash between St. Jean and Weir. Granfors, Escotto and Browne were also involved. After the caution period, Myles Rowe pulled away at the front to take his fifth win of the season. Lirim Zendeli crossed the finish line in second and Jordan Missig finished third.




For the last weekend in August, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, was the place to be for USF Pro 2000. Mac Clark immediately took pole position for the first race on his debut weekend. There he was narrowly beaten by Kiko Porto, who celebrated his first win of the season ahead of the Canadian. The podium was completed by Nikita Johnson in third place. The 15-year-old, like Clark, competed in his first USF Pro 2000 race ever. 


Kiko Porto then started the second race from pole position. However, it wasn't too long before he was overtaken by Nikita Johnson, who had already had a great battle with Mac Clark. The Velocity RD driver crossed the finish line first and celebrated his first victory in only his second race. Kiko Porto defended second place ahead of Mac Clark who finished third.




The final races of the season were held at Portland International Raceway at the beginning of September. In qualifying, Michael d'Orlando set the tone and secured pole position for all three races. After a mass crash at the start, seven drivers had to retire from the first race. At the restart, d'Orlando, in the lead, cut the first corner and had to drop back to avoid a penalty. This also benefited Kiko Porto, who took the lead and drove towards victory. Myles Rowe finished the race in second place ahead of Bijoy Garg in third.


In the second race, Michael d'Orlando managed to convert his pole position into a victory. Second was a strong Nikita Johnson. Myles Rowe finished third, becoming the first African-American to secure a Single Seater title. 


The last race of the year was won by Nikita Johnson, who took the lead from Pole Setter d'Orlando already in the first turn. This was his second USF Pro 2000 race win in only his fifth race start. Second was Salvador de Alba ahead of Jonathan Browne who finished the race in third place.


Myles Rowe


The American with Jamaican origins again impressed with his skills behind the wheel this year. Nine podium finishes and five victories secured him his first title on the "Road To Indy". After being caught up in the championship shortly before the end of the USF 2000 last season, he shifted up another gear this year and managed to reduce his error rate considerably. It is already clear that Rowe will be racing for HMD Motorsports with Force Indy in the Indy NXT Series next season. It will be exciting to see how one of the biggest American talents will perform on the final stage before Indycar.


Michael d'Orlando


The USF 2000 champion from 2022 needed a few races to gain a foothold in the new racing series. But he did so all the more impressively. After four races outside the top 10, he made it to the podium five times by the end of the season, winning three of them. I expect to see Michael d'Orlando in the USF Pro 2000 again next year. For me, he will definitely be one of the favorites for the drivers' championship title.


Kiko Porto


One of the best drivers of the season was also Kiko Porto. The Brazilian managed to clinch the runner-up title with consistent results, eight podiums and two wins. In his second USF Pro 2000 year, the USF 2000 champion from 2021 improved once again. At the end of the season, he already made his first appearances in the Indy NXT Series and was able to draw attention to himself there with strong performances. I think it's likely that he will be the next Brazilian racing in Indycar.


Nikita Johnson


Even though he had only participated in two race weekends, Nikita Johnson was already one of the best drivers of the USF Pro 2000 season. In five races, he made it to the podium four times and even won two races. The 15-year-old talent from St. Petersburg, Florida will definitely be one of the hottest candidates for the title in the upcoming season.


Christian Brooks


Another driver who stood out for me was Christian Brooks. Unfortunately, due to a limited budget, he was only able to participate in two weekends. However, he made it to the top eight in all four of those races. He also won the first race of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg. If Brooks gets the opportunity to race a full season, he will definitely be one of the best racers in the championship.


Lirim Zendeli


Last but not least, I would like to highlight the performance of Lirim Zendeli. Before the season, he had never competed in a race in the United States. So it was questionable how he would perform. The German-Albanian showed a very mixed season with many ups and downs, but still made it to the podium four times and even celebrated a race win at Road America. I see his success in his first year as proof that Zendeli will only get stronger in the coming years in the US.


P1: Myles Rowe / 391

P2: Kiko Porto / 326

P3: Salvador de Alba / 291

P4: Michael d'Orlando / 288

P5: Lirim Zendeli / 259  

P6: Francesco Pizzi / 259

P7: Jace Denmark / 252

P8: Jonathan Browne / 230

P9: Jack William Miller / 212

P10: Joel Granfors / 206 

P11: Jordan Missig / 179

P12: Bijoy Garg / 154 

P13: Ricardo Escotto / 153

P14: Reece Ushijima / 140

P15: Yuven Sundaramoorthy / 121

P16: Christian Weir / 119

P17: Nikita Johnson / 118 

P18: Lindsay Brewer / 108

P19: Nicholas Monteiro / 106

P20: Louka St-Jean / 101

P21: Jackson Lee / 84 

P22: Christian Brooks / 79

P23: Mac Clark / 50

P24: Avery Towns / 39

P25: Frankie Mossman / 37

P26: Danny Dyszelski / 27

P27: Jorge Garciarce / 17

P28: Charles Finelli / 12


P1: Pabst Racing / 403

P2: Turn 3 Motorsport / 318

P3: DEForce Racing / 282

P4: TJ Speed Motorsports / 282 

P5: Exclusive Autosport / 263

P6: Miller Vinatieri Motorsports / 130

P7: Jay Howard Driver Development / 125

P8: Velocity Racing Development / 93

P9: NeoTech Motorsport / 60

P10: FatBoy Racing! / 16

written by Claudio Graf  / 10th September, 2023