2024 PREVIEW - USF 2000

The first two races of the new season for the USF 2000 Championship take place this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg. In this preview you will find everything you need to know before the start of the season. From all the teams and their drivers, to the race calendar and the spring training tests, to my championship predictions.


On the first race weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida, 21 drivers from seven different teams will take part. Over the course of the year, there are some drivers who will join the series and others who will only compete a partial program. In addition to last year's champion Simon Sikes, Nikita Johnson, Lochie Hughes and Mac Clark have also made the step up to the USF Pro 2000 class. Jacob Douglas, who recently won two out of three races in the season finale at Portland, is also no longer competing in the series due to budget problems.


DC Autosport

Carson Etter, Ayrton Houk


The DC Autosport team will have two drivers on the grid in 2024. Carson Etter finished his rookie season in the USF Juniors in twelfth place last year. The 20-year-old from Villa Park, California, achieved his best result, a sixth place, at Road America. In 2022, he contested the F4 Formula Pro USA Western Championship, which he finished as runner-up with five wins and seven other podium finishes. His team-mate for 2024 is Ayrton Houk. The 20-year-old from Indianapolis is contesting his USF 2000 rookie season this year. Most recently, he took part in the F1600 Championship Series, where he won the runner-up title with three wins and a further eleven podium finishes.


DEForce Racing

Nicolas Giaffone, Lucas Fecury, Quinn Armstrong, Brady Golan, Maxwell Jamieson


DEForce Racing will be competing with five cars in the USF 2000 Championship. Nicolas Giaffone is the reigning USF Juniors champion. The 19-year-old Brazilian won six races last season and finished on the podium a total of eleven times. He previously raced in the Brazilian F4 in 2022, where he won three races and finished the championship in 5th place. His compatriot Lucas Fecury is also contesting his first full season in the USF 2000 championship in 2024. The 20-year-old Brazilian made his debut at last year's season finale in Portland. He finished the 2023 USF Juniors Championship in ninth place. A podium finish in third place at Barber Motorsports Park was his best race result. Quinn Armstrong also contested USF Juniors last year. With three wins and six other podium finishes, the 16-year-old Australian finished the championship as runner-up. Brady Golan is taking part in his first USF 2000 races in St. Petersburg. The 16-year-old from Houston, Texas, finished his 2023 USF Juniors rookie season in tenth place in the championship. His best result was a fourth place at Virginia International Raceway. At the beginning of the year, he also became the youngest ever race winner in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge history at the opening round of the new season at Daytona International Speedway. The DEForce team is completed by Maxwell Jamieson, who is starting his second USF 2000 season and is therefore the most experienced driver in the team. The 19-year-old from Houston, Texas finished his rookie season last year in 16th place in the championship. His best result was ninth at the season opening weekend in St. Petersburg.


Exclusive Autosport

Joey Brienza, Thomas Schrage, Jack Jeffers


The Exclusive Autosport team is starting the new season with three cars. Joey Brienza made his debut in the racing series last year. His best result in the four races in which he took part was a tenth place. In 2023, the 19-year-old from Colorado mainly raced in the USF Juniors, where he finished fifth in the championship with one win and a total of six podium finishes. His team-mate this year is Thomas Schrage. The 19-year-old from Ohio contested two USF 2000 weekends last year and achieved his best result with a fourth place in the season finale at Portland International Raceway. In 2022, he won the F1600 Championship Series with nine wins and seven second places. Jack Jeffers, who will mainly be racing in the USF Juniors in 2024, is also contesting a part-time program in the USF 2000 Championship this year. Last year, he took three wins and a total of six podium places in his USF Juniors rookie season. The 17-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, finished the championship in third place. He also recently won the Yacademy Winter Series.


Jay Howard Driver Development

Evagoras Papasavvas, Tanner DeFabis, Michael Costello, Jace Bacon


Jay Howard Driver Development will bring three USF 2000 drivers to St. Petersburg for the season opener, but have already signed a fourth driver for a part-time program. Evagoras Papasavvas is the highest-placed driver from last year's championship who is still in the program. The 16-year-old from Washington with Cypriot roots proved his talent in 2023 with one win, a total of six podium finishes and a 4th place in the championship. One of the drivers who wants to be at the front of the title fight. Tanner DeFabis is embarking on a part-time program with JHDD in the USF 2000 this year. The 18-year-old from Indianapolis contested his rookie season in 2023 in the F4 US Championship, where he achieved several top ten finishes. His team-mate Michael Costello also contested the F4 US Championship last year. The 17-year-old from Florida finished the season in fifth place with three wins and two further podium finishes. Since last season, he has been managed by Fernando Alonso's A14 Management team. Over the course of the year, 18-year-old USF 2000 rookie Jace Bacon will also contest some races with the team. Bacon was the 2023 Apex Challenge Series Vice Champion and Rookie of the Year as well as the Vice Champion in the Radical Cup North America program with several race wins and podium results.


Pabst Racing

Hudson Schwartz, Sam Corry, Max Garcia


Pabst Racing will contest 2024 with two new drivers and one familiar driver from the previous year. Last year, Hudson Schwartz mainly contested the USF Juniors Championship with Velocity RD, which he finished in eighth place with three podium finishes. The 14-year-old from Virginia also won the Lucas Oil School of Racing Championship Series with six wins and a total of 13 podium finishes in 15 races. His team-mate Sam Corry contested his USF 2000 rookie season last year with Velocity RD. The 16-year-old from North Carolina won the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished third on the podium twice more during the course of the year. He finished the championship in a strong seventh place overall. Max Garcia, another fast youngster, completes the team. The almost 15-year-old from Miami, Florida, finished the past USF 2000 season, his rookie season, in ninth place. He consistently finished in the top ten and was third on the podium at Road America and second in Toronto.


Velocity Racing Development

Nico Christodoulou, Max Taylor, Xavier Kokai, Cole Kleck


Velocity Racing Development will line up with four cars in St. Petersburg. Nico Christodoulou is back in the United States after two years in the British GB3 Championship. The 19-year-old Canadian celebrated a total of three podium finishes during his time in Europe and ended the 2023 championship in eighth place. Last season, he also took part in the USF 2000 races in Toronto. After a strong fifth place in the first race, he even managed to win the second race. Last year, Max Taylor contested the USF Juniors Championship with the Velocity RD team. The 16-year-old from Connecticut finished sixth in the championship with one win and a total of three podium finishes. He already looked very strong in the USF 2000 Spring Training with his second-fastest time. The third driver in the team is Australian Xavier Kokai. The 18-year-old from Melbourne is contesting his first season in the USF 2000 Championship in 2024. He last competed in the Australian Formula Ford, where he finished fourth in the championship in 2023 with one win and three other podium finishes. Cole Kleck also joined the team for St. Petersburg at the last minute. The 17-year-old from San Antonio, Texas took part in six rounds of the 2023 Formula Regional Americas, where he finished third and fourth at the Circuit of the Americas.


Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development

Elliot Cox


Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development driver Elliot Cox is entering his second USF 2000 season in 2024. The 16-year-old from Indianapolis finished the championship in twelfth place last year. His best results were two fifth places at Sebring International Raceway and Road America. Overall, he finished in the top ten seven times during his rookie season.


Once again this year, 18 races will take place across eight race tracks. Compared to last year, the second weekend at Sebring has been replaced with NOLA Motorsports Park, where a triple-header is scheduled for 2024. This third race will therefore no longer take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The season finale will be contested at Portland International Raceway, as it was last year.


Round 1/2: Streets of St. Petersburg (March 8-10)


Round 3/4/5: NOLA Motorsports Park (April 5-7)


Round 6/7: Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Road Course (May 9-11)


Round 8: Lucas Oil Raceway (May 23-24)


Round 9/10: Road America (June 6-9)


Round 11/12/13: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 4-7)


Round 14/15: Exhibition Place - Toronto (July 19-21)


Round 16/17/18: Portland International Raceway (August 22-25)


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 events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the season finale at Portland International Raceway, where three races will be held.


There are also more points to be won for the only oval race than for the road races. The following points are awarded in the oval: 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 also awarded for pole position.


Official pre-season testing took place on February 26th and 27th at NOLA Motorsports Park. Two practice sessions took place on Monday and another three followed on Tuesday. A total of 18 drivers took part in the so-called Spring Training overall. In the first session, JHDD driver Evagoras Papasavvas was fastest ahead of Max Garcia and Nicolas Giaffone. Pabst Racing driver Max Garcia then secured the fastest time of the first day with a 1:35.6631 in the second practice session. In the third session on Tuesday, Garcia finally beat this best time by another four tenths of a second to a 1:35.2634 and thus also set the fastest time of the entire USF 2000 Spring Training test runs. VRD Racing driver Max Taylor took second position, +0.2386s behind. In the slower fourth session, Exclusive Autosport driver Joey Brienza was quickest, half a second ahead of Max Garcia and Hudson Schwartz. The final session was finally completed by Nicolas Giaffone in first place, but only a wafer-thin +0.0119s and +0.0222s ahead of Michael Costello and Joey Brienza. The busiest driver of the test drives was Carson Etter with 92 laps, just ahead of Cole Kleck and Lucas Fecury who completed 91 laps each.


Test Results

P1: Max Garcia - Pabst Racing / 1m35.2634s

P2: Max Taylor - VRD Racing / +0.2386s

P3: Joey Brienza - Exclusive Autosport / +0.4090s

P4: Nicolas Giaffone - DEForce Racing / +0.4503s

P5: Michael Costello - JHDD / +0.4622s

P6: Evagoras Papasavvas - JHDD / +0.4649s

P7: Thomas Schrage - Exclusive Autosport / +0.5955s

P8: Hudson Schwartz - Pabst Racing / +0.6184s

P9: Sam Corry - Pabst Racing / +0.6366s

P10: Quinn Armstrong - DEForce Racing / +0.7873s

P11: Elliot Cox - SFH Racing Development / +0.8352s

P12: Cole Kleck - VRD Racing / +1.0650s

P13: Lucas Fecury - DEForce Racing / +1.3254s 

P14: Ayrton Houk - DC Autosport / +1.3666s

P15: Tanner DeFabis - JHDD / +1.3671s

P16: Maxwell Jamieson - DEForce Racing / +1.6361s

P17: Carson Etter - DC Autosport / +1.7665s

P18: Xavier Kokai - VRD Racing / +1.8257s


All USF Pro 2000, USF 2000 and USF Juniors races can once again be followed live on YouTube or via the app this year. Free of charge, all over the world.


As I already did last year, I dare to make a prediction for this year's USF 2000 driver and team championships.


Drivers Championship Prediction


P1: Nico Christodoulou

P2: Max Garcia

P3: Evagoras Papasavvas

P4: Nicolas Giaffone

P5: Sam Corry


Similar to the sister series USF Pro 2000, the battle for the USF 2000 championship could hardly be more exciting. My favorite for the title is Nico Christodoulou, who is back in North America full-time after two years in Europe. For me, his closest rivals for the title include Pabst Racing drivers Max Garcia and Sam Corry, as well as JHDD driver Evagoras Papasavvas and the reigning USF Juniors champion Nicolas Giaffone. I'm also confident that his DEForce team-mate Quinn Armstrong can fight for race wins and podium places. Hudson Schwartz, Joey Brienza, Michael Costello, Thomas Schrage and Max Taylor also have the potential to be among the front runners.


Teams Championship Prediction


P1: Pabst Racing

P2: Velocity Racing Development

P3: Jay Howard Driver Development


I also expect a close fight for the title in the team championship. However, I think the defending champions Pabst Racing are the favorites again this year. Behind them, Velocity RD, JHDD and DEForce Racing will be battling it out for second, third and fourth place. I see Exclusive Autosport in fifth place at the end of the season.


The first two races of the year will be held over the coming days on the streets of Saint Petersburg, Florida at the Firestone GP.

written by Claudio Graf  / 6th March, 2024