PORTLAND, Ore. — Jacob Douglas found the perfect way to follow up on his first-ever USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires victory, which involved claiming his second win in a row.
The youngster from Christchurch, New Zealand, posted another exemplary performance in hot, sticky conditions at Portland International Raceway, holding off a race-long challenge from Pabst Racing teammate Simon Sikes to finished just 0.3785 of a second to the good.
After clinching the season-long championship yesterday with two races to spare, Sikes kept the pressure on Douglas throughout the 25-lap contest in the second of three races that comprise the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Portland. Behind, 15-year-old Nikita Johnson made an impressive pass on the last lap to secure the final podium position after having started back in seventh.
Pabst carried its dominance from yesterday by having all three of its drivers at the front of the grid for today’s penultimate round of the USF2000 title-chase. They were led once again by Douglas, who turned the best of each driver’s second-fastest laps during the lone qualifying session on Friday to snag his second successive Cooper Tires Pole Award.
The only change from yesterday came with Sikes earning the outside front row starting position ahead of Max Garcia.
The caution flags waved at the end of the first lap, but rather than for an incident at the first corner, which the entire field negotiated cleanly, it was for the seemingly ever unfortunate Thomas Schrage who was unable to take up his fourth position on the grid after his Exclusive Autosport Tatuus ground to a halt on the pace lap.
Douglas ensured he had the inside line for the Festival Curves covered at the restart, although behind him Garcia, after realizing there was no space to Douglas’ right, tried to dive across to the outside line, only to make slight contact with Sikes, who was already positioned slightly behind and to Garcia’s left.
A momentary touch between the pair was enough to send Garcia spinning to the left, where, fortunately, he was avoided by the pursuing pack and continued, albeit now at the tail of the field.
Thereafter the sun-drenched crowd was treated to another exciting race as Sikes chased Douglas for all he was worth. Sikes fell back a little with just over 10 laps remaining, having set what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race, then closed once again on the leader, Douglas, who stuck to his guns and took another finely judged victory.
The 2022 USF Juniors champion, Mac Clark, held third place for DEForce Racing for virtually the entire distance, although as the DEForce driver began to struggle for pace in the closing stages, Johnson took his time before executing a textbook pass for third place under braking for turn one on the final lap.
Clark had to be content with fourth, despite the close attentions of Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas who finished right on his tail in fifth.
A little farther back, Elliot Cox drove another strong race for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development, once again picking up the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 15th on the grid to eighth.
Another glorious day for Augie Pabst brought him a seventh PFC Award as the winning car owner. And after celebrating his first ever Driver Championship win, his Pabst Racing organization also extended its lead in the Team Championship to an almost insurmountable 37 points over Jay Howard Driver Development.