SEBRING, Fla. — Nicolas Giaffone and Joey Brienza shared the victories today at a hot, sunny Sebring Int’l Raceway as USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires produced two more all-green-flag races to continue an entertaining start to the season.
Giaffone narrowly headed Brienza in this morning’s 10-lap race, while the positions were reversed this afternoon. As the series leaves Sebring, it’s Brienza who claimed an early lead in the point standings.
In the first race this morning, Brienza began at the front, courtesy of his second Cooper Tires Pole Award.
Brienza breezed to a comfortable lead of more than three seconds after the opening three laps as the field jostled for position in his wake. Max Taylor muscled his way past front row starter Jeffers at turn three, whereupon Jeffers cost himself several more positions by sliding briefly off the road later in the lap.
Giaffone was on the move early, rising from sixth on the grid to third, despite sliding onto the grass in turn three on the second lap. Undeterred, Giaffone proceeded to overtake Taylor for second and then rapidly closed the gap to Brienza.
Both had elected to run a fresh set of Cooper tires, but Giaffone’s pace was relentless. He grasped the lead from Brienza with a bold pass at turn three on the seventh lap. Brienza fought back in the closing stages, but the Brazilian held him off to claim a fine victory.
Giaffone’s fine drive netted him the Tilton Hard Charger Award, as well as a second straight PFC Award for DEForce Racing’s David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
Jack Jeffers also mounted a fine recovery drive, finishing third after having slipped back to sixth following his early error. Ethan Ho inherited fourth after VRD teammates Taylor and Jimmie Lockhart tangled in turn 10 with four laps remaining.
Brienza led throughout this afternoon’s final race of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Sebring triple-header after once again starting from the pole.
Giaffone lost a little ground to Brienza as he battled Lockhart for the first couple of laps, and even though the Brazilian soon made second place his own, he was unable to make any inroads into Brienza’s advantage.
Instead, all eyes were on a thrilling battle for third place which saw Lockhart, Taylor, Jeffers and DEForce Racing teammates Quinn Armstrong and Lucas Fecury all exchanging places on a regular basis. A mistake midway through the race by yesterday’s race winner, Armstrong, cost him any chance of defending his initial points lead.
Lockhart faded from second to fifth after five laps, but then mounted a rousing challenge during which he made two bold passes and posted the fastest lap of the race before wrestling away the final podium position from teammate Taylor at turn 17 on the last lap.
Brazil’s Erick Schotten earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, rising from 12th on the grid to eighth, while team owner Michael Duncalfe capped a fine day by securing his first USF Juniors PFC Award.