Johnson and Sikes share USF Pro 2000 honors at Indy GP

VRD Racing’s Nikita Johnson and Pabst Racing’s Simon Sikes both stood on the top step of the podium in the final two rounds of the VP Racing Grand Prix of Indianapolis tripleheader. This was the fifth win of the season for Johnson, of Gulfport, Fla., who also stood atop the podium Friday at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. For Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., the victory marked the reigning USF2000 champion’s first since graduating to USF Pro 2000.

This morning’s podium was a deja vu of Friday’s with New Zealand’s Liam Sceats (TJ Speed Motorsports) finishing second ahead of Australian Lochie Hughes (Turn 3 Motorsport).

Johnson stretched his already considerable USF Pro 2000 Presented by Continental Tire points lead by chasing Sikes home in second place in the final race of the weekend as Hughes once again took third.


Johnson had continued his recent dominance Saturday morning with another emphatic victory. Once again he started at the front, courtesy of his second fastest lap during the lone qualifying session on Friday which secured another Continental Tire Pole Award, although it was outside front row qualifier Sceats who stole a march at the start by snatching the lead at the first turn. It didn’t last for long.

Sceats immediately came under pressure from Johnson, who drafted alongside the New Zealander on the long front straightaway leading into Turn 1. Sceats did his best to defend, holding a tight inside line, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Johnson from executing a textbook “over-under” maneuver by tucking back to the right as Sceats ran a little deep into the braking zone and then slicing past cleanly before they reached Turn 2.

Job done. Johnson then put his head down and rapidly extended his lead. The 15-year-old never relaxed his pace, even posting a new fastest lap of the race just two laps before the finish to ensure himself of the maximum 33-point score.

Sceats maintained second position for the remainder of the all-green 25-lap race, despite intense pressure throughout from Hughes, who finished third for the second straight race.

Fourth place was taken by local resident Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), who provided one of the drives of the race by rising from 13th on the grid to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Starting positions for the final race were set according to either each driver’s second fastest lap in qualifying or their best lap time set during race two this morning, whichever was faster. Johnson duly claimed a sweep of the Continental Tire Pole Awards, thanks to his time from Friday, while Sikes finally gained a glimmer of light after a disappointing couple of days when his best lap from earlier today proved good enough to secure an outside front row starting position.

Hughes started fourth but lost no time in making his presence felt as he grasped the lead on the opening lap. Johnson, though, fought back immediately, taking the lead on the second lap, while Sikes followed through into second next time around.

The two leaders traded fastest laps as they inched away from Hughes in third until, as the 25-lap race neared its halfway mark, Johnson managed to eke out his advantage to over a second.

Shortly afterward, however, in stark contrast to the previous two races, Johnson abruptly lost some pace, which allowed Sikes to close in once more.

On lap 19, Sikes drew alongside Johnson as they sped toward Turn 1, then grasped the lead with a move around the outside.

Once in front, Sikes was never able to extend much of a lead, but there was no way back for Johnson, who had to be content with second. Hughes also finished hot on Johnson’s tail.

The scrap for fourth place was all about TJ Speed Motorsports, with Hunter Yeany, from Virginia Beach, Va., slipping past Sceats to claim the position with four laps remaining.

Mexico’s Ricardo Escotto pocketed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 14th on the grid to ninth, as VRD’s Dan Mitchell of VRD and Augie Pabst shared the PFC Awards as the winning car owners.

A brace of official tests at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington, Ohio, and Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wis., are up next for the USF Pro 2000 regulars, followed by a return to the Indianapolis area for the only oval race of the season, the Continental Tire Freedom 90 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on May 23-24.


Story originally appeared on Racer