Hughes doubles and takes USF Pro 2000 points lead at Road America

Lochie Hughes and the Illinois-based Turn 3 Motorsport team enjoyed a banner day at Road America, winning two of the three races that will comprise this weekend’s Elite Engines Grand Prix of Road America. The talented Australian also vaulted into a clear lead in his quest for the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship and a scholarship valued at $681,500 to graduate to INDY NXT in 2025.

Frankie Mossman (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Newport Beach, Calif., and Mexico’s Ricardo Escotto (BN Racing) finished second and third in the opening race, while Pabst Racing’s Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., and New Zealander Liam Sceats (TJ Speed Motorsports) completed the podium later in the day.

Hughes began the weekend trailing early season pacesetter Nikita Johnson by a single championship point, although he quickly erased that deficit by virtue of securing the Continental Tire Pole Award for Saturday’s opening race during the first of two qualifying sessions on Friday.


A cloudy sky and threatening clouds greeted the USF Pro 2000 contenders early this morning when they lined up on the grid, but thankfully the rain was kept at bay for the majority – but not quite all – of the 15-lap race.

Hughes duly led the 21-car field up the hill toward the starter’s awaiting green flag shortly after 8:00 a.m., but it was outside front row starter Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., who grasped the early initiative for Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Pabst Racing when he drove around the outside of the Australian at the first corner.

Last year’s USF2000 champion held the lead for almost exactly one lap before Hughes regained the advantage at the same corner. Shortly afterward, Mossman relegated Sikes to third place at Turn 5, then began to put the pressure on Hughes for the lead.

Mossman momentarily gained the upper hand when he drafted past Hughes into Turn 1 on lap 11, but his decision to take a defensive line subsequently at Turn Three cost him valuable momentum and allowed Hughes to regain the advantage on the long run downhill toward Turn 5.

Mossman intensified his challenge in the closing stages as spots of rain began to fall. For most of the final lap, Hughes felt obliged to adopt a defensive line under braking to minimize any opportunity for Mossman to wrest away his lead. The ploy worked to perfection, although both leaders – and everyone behind – was almost caught off guard when the rain drops rapidly intensified as they negotiated the critical Carousel corner at Turn 8.

The top contenders all made it through safely, then treated the notorious Road America kink with the utmost respect as they made their way toward the checkered flag at significantly reduced pace.

Hughes duly held on to secure a well-judged victory, his second of the season but first since the very first race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March. Behind, Mossman followed in an impressive second, for his first-ever podium finish, while Sikes’ attempt to wrest away second place went awry at the final corner when he ran out of racing room, strayed two wheels onto the grass and spun.

Escotto inherited third, his first podium since joining BN Racing, after narrowly fending off the Pabst Racing pair of Jace Denmark, from Brownsburg, Ind., and Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., on the dash to the line.

Brazil’s Nicolas Monteiro earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award following an impressive drive to 11th after starting dead last.

Sikes looked to make amends later in the day, starting at the front after having claimed the Continental Tire Pole Award during a second qualifying session on Friday. The race started out well for Sikes as he fought off a challenge from teammate Brooks, but after a couple of early caution periods due to incidents further down the field, he was unable to stay with the leaders and slipped back down the field before once again crashing out on the final lap.

After losing a place on the opening lap, Hughes quickly worked his way forward once the race began in earnest, moving to the front on lap 11 and controlling the remainder of the 15-lap contest.

Brooks enjoyed his best result since also finishing second in the opening race of the season, crossing the line just 1.1288s behind the winner, but the drive of the race came from Sceats, who catapulted himself from 14th on the grid to sixth in the early stages. The Kiwi continued his charge forward to take the checkered flag in third, narrowly ahead of Denmark.

Sceats comfortably pocketed the Tilton Hard Charger Award for his efforts, while Turn 3 Motorsport’s Peter Dempsey capped his team’s magnificent day with a pair of PFC Awards as the winning car owner.

One more race is on tap for this weekend’s busy slate of action, with the 12th round of the 18-race season set to see the green flag at 10:00 a.m. Sunday.



Story originally appeared on Racer