Porto drives to dominant USF Pro 2000 victory at COTA

Kiko Porto, of Recife, Brazil, romped to his first win of the 2023 USF Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season in the opening round of the Discount Tire Circuit of The Americas Grand Prix doubleheader Saturday afternoon. This is the sixth podium for the DEForce Racing driver who will celebrate his 20th birthday in two days’ time.

USF2000 rising stars Mac Clark (DEForce Racing) and Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing) rounded out the top three with impressive debuts in USF Pro 2000 competition.

Clark, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, turned heads by claiming the Cooper Tires Pole Award earlier in the day with teammate Porto lining up second. Johnson (VRD Racing), from Gulfport, Fla., also shone, qualifying third followed by championship leader Myles Rowe of Pabst Racing with Force Indy.


Clark made a fine start but Porto was able to take the point exiting Turn 1. A few moments later and the yellow flags flew for the first and only time following an incident involving Pabst Racing teammates Jordan Missig and Jace Denmark and Exclusive Autosport’s Salvador de Alba.

De Alba was able to continue albeit falling from sixth to 13th, but the day was done for Missig and Denmark.

The race resumed on lap four with Johnson finding a way past Rowe to slot into third as the front of the field settled in. Meanwhile, de Alba, who entered the weekend third in the standings, was on the move eventually salvaging some points with an eighth-place result.

Fourth-place ranked Michael d’Orlando’s misfortunes resurfaced following a strong run of late as the Turn 3 Motorsport driver retired with a mechanical issue after eight of 15 laps.

By the time the checkered flags flew, the DEForce duo of Porto and Clark held a gap of almost 3s to Johnson.

Rowe crossed the line in fourth to extend his championship lead to 69 points with only four races remaining this season.

“What a weekend. The blue car was on fire,” Porto said. “We showed well from the first session with Mac making his debut in the series. I am so happy. Mac deserved the pole but we were close. With the draft here and the temperature, I just tried to find an opportunity. Mac really helped me to keep me on the pace. It was not easy. It was so hot. Tomorrow we have one more and I am pretty sure we have a good chance to do a one-two again.”

Jonathan Browne (Turn 3 Motorsport) earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award with a gain of six positions while David and Ernesto Martinez of DEForce Racing took home the PFC Award as winning team owners.

The final round of the Discount Tire Circuit of The Americas Grand Prix will take place at 8 a.m. CDT Sunday.


Story originally appeared on Racer