ALTON, Va. — Third generation racer Nicolas Giaffone captured his fourth win of the season and third consecutive for DEForce Racing following a spirited drive this afternoon in USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires competition.
There was little breathing room throughout the opening round of the Cooper Tires VIR Grand Prix tripleheader for the 18-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who rebounded from a crash in practice earlier in the day.
Jack Jeffers claimed his third podium of the season for Exclusive Autosport with Quinn Armstrong rounding out the top three with his fourth podium for DEForce Racing.
Ethan Ho of DC Autosport displayed consistent top-five pace during the trio of test sessions yesterday on the challenging 3.27-mile road course. The 17-year-old Korean-American based in Los Angeles posted only the 10th fastest time in practice this morning, but when it counted in qualifying, he laid down a fast lap early.
His time of 1:55.327 was matched, precisely, on the final lap by Joey Brienza of Exclusive Autosport, but it was Ho who was credited with his first Cooper Tires Pole Award.
After a solid start, Ho came under attack almost immediately from a charging Jeffers, who had lined up third on the grid and displaced Brienza in the opening turns, and then Giaffone, who started fourth but had moved into second by lap three.
Ho’s podium hopes were extinguished on lap five when contact from VRD Racing’s Max Taylor — who had dropped a wheel off track — resulted in a spin and the loss of seven positions.
Lap six proved to be a pivotal point in the race as a brief rain cell moved into the area, catching several drivers out and necessitating the caution flags. The running order for what would be a five-lap dash to the finish saw Jeffers leading Giaffone followed by Hudson Schwartz, Lucas Fecury and Armstrong.
A tremendous battle ensued between Jeffers and Giaffone when the field went back to green on lap 11, with Giaffone managing to finally make his pass for the lead stick with three laps to go. Armstrong was able to work his way by Schwartz and Fecury, who lost ground after contact with Brienza but still managed to finish fifth behind Taylor and earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
It was also an impressive drive from Taylor, who had dropped back to 11th at one stage, and set the fastest lap of the race.
Brienza’s promising day from a front-row starting spot ended with an unrepresentative 14th-place finish after suffering right-rear tire damage.
Giaffone now holds a 40-point edge in his quest for a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $241,800 which will enable the series champion to progress onto the next step of the USF Pro Championship ladder in 2024.