ALTON, Va. — Brazilian Nicolas Giaffone and first-time winner Jack Jeffers shared the victory spoils today as this weekend’s Cooper Tires VIR Grand Prix concluded with a pair of exciting USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires races at VIRginia International Raceway.
Giaffone scored his fourth win in a row for DEForce Racing this morning, but he was unable to prevent Exclusive Autosport’s Jeffers from turning the tables this afternoon.
Giaffone finished strongly in second place, however, and now holds a commanding 61-point advantage in the chase to secure a scholarship valued at over $241,800 to advance to USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires in 2024 as part of the Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship program.
Joey Brienza (Exclusive Autosport) and 14-year-old Hudson Schwartz (VRD Racing) completed the podium in the first race, with Giaffone and Max Taylor (VRD Racing) claiming the places in the finale.
This morning’s race brought significantly cooler conditions than the day before and began with 16-year-old Jeffers taking the Cooper Tires Pole Award by virtue of having posted the fastest of each drivers’ second best lap during the lone qualifying session on Saturday morning.
Jeffers maintained a slender advantage over a snarling pack for the opening four laps, but points leader Giaffone was on a mission. The on-form Brazilian displaced both Brienza and yesterday’s polesitter Ethan Ho (DC Autosport) in the opening stages before slipping past Jeffers with an imperious move on the outside of turn one.
Soon afterward a problem with his car’s steering wheel eliminated the unfortunate Jeffers from contention and allowed Giaffone to pull clear of the field.
A couple of incidents punctuated the final third of the race. The leading pack ran three abreast as they raced toward turn one at the first restart, whereupon Ho ran wide and then spun. Jimmie Lockhart (VRD Racing) also gyrated onto the grass.
Taylor took the challenge to Giaffone after the final restart with two laps remaining. The pair ran side by side through the Roller Coaster, turn 14 and Taylor nosed briefly ahead as the leaders plunged downhill through the final sequence of corners before attempting to carry a touch too much speed into turn 17, which took him wide onto the damp grass and out of contention.
Brienza briefly drafted past Giaffone as the leaders began their last lap, but Giaffone reasserted himself at turn one and held on to take the victory by less than a quarter of a second.
Schwartz emerged amid the excitement to claim third ahead of Brady Golan, who nosed ahead of DEForce Racing teammate Lucas Fecury at the finish line. Golan’s fine effort earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award, having lined up 13th on the starting grid.
A new race lap record for Giaffone was enough to secure him another Cooper Tires Pole Award for the third and final race of the weekend, with the grid established according to either each drivers’ second fastest lap in qualifying or their best lap from race two.
Giaffone maintained his early advantage but this time it was Jeffers who was on the charge and anxious to make up for his earlier disappointment. He did so in style, marching confidently around the outside of Giaffone in turn one and asserting himself in the lead before the ensuing the left-handed turn three.
Jeffers then checked out to secure a well-deserved maiden victory.
Giaffone was untroubled in second, well clear of Taylor, who broke away from the pack to finish similarly clear of VRD teammate Lockhart in fourth. Taylor’s fine drive from eighth on the grid was enough to claim his second Tilton Hard Charger Award of the season.