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Taylor does a Friday double with USF Juniors win at Mid-Ohio

Max Taylor is on a roll. Moments after scoring an accomplished USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire victory Friday afternoon in wet conditions at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the VRD Racing driver hopped over to his awaiting USF Juniors Tatuus JR-23 and repeated the feat in the first of two races that will comprise the Tatuus Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. Incredibly, he managed to take the victory despite making two visits to pit lane.

Taylor’s second win of the USF Juniors Presented by Continental Tire season vaulted him from third in the points standings to the lead after former championship leader Sebastian Wheldon, from Coral Gables, Fla., was involved in a collision while competing for a podium position. At stake is a scholarship valued at $263,700 to graduate onto the next step of the USF Pro Championships driver development ladder, USF2000, in 2025.

An intense qualifying session earlier Friday saw England’s Liam McNeilly secure his third Continental Tire Pole Award for the Jay Howard Driver Development team. InterMS teammates Ariel Elkin and Augusto Soto-Schirripa lined up second and third on the grid with points leader Wheldon on the outside of the second row.

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The track was still damp following the earlier showers and USF2000 race when the 20-lap contest began, although it was drying quickly, and immediately apparent that the teams would be required to switch from wet to dry-weather tires at some stage.

McNeilly led convincingly in the early stages, but when VRD Racing’s Christian Cameron, from Sonoma, Calif., was involved in an incident while disputing sixth place with Canadian Ayden Ingratta (Jay Howard Driver Development) and the pace car was called out for the first time, the majority of the field opted to dive for the pit lane and change tires. McNeilly and Elkin were not among them.

A couple of contenders already made their tire switches, including JHDD’s G3 Argyros, from Newport Beach, Calif., who took advantage of warm slick tires to grasp the lead shortly after the restart.

Later on the same lap, Wheldon, in second, was unfortunately collected by Brazilian Bruno Ribeiro (DEForce Racing) at Turn 9, ending his day prematurely.

After another short caution, Argyros was overtaken firstly by Soto-Schirripa, then by a charging Jack Jeffers (Exclusive Autosport), from San Antonio, Texas, and finally by the inspired Taylor, who had pitted for slick tires with the majority after five laps but was obliged to return to the pit lane because one of the safety wheel-nut retaining pins had not been properly fitted at the first attempt.

Taylor fell back to 16th but immediately began to charge forward, passing Jeffers for the lead with five laps remaining and romping clear before the race finally ended under yellow due to another incident farther down the field.

Jeffers held on for a fine second, while McNeilly, despite pitting one lap after most of his rivals, flew back through the field to finish third and keep his title hopes well and truly alive.

“What a stellar day here at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and on the Fourth of July week. I am happy to be on the top step on the podium twice in two different categories,” Taylor said.” The VRD car was amazing. Rain or shine I am able to put it on the top step of the podium. I definitely had to work harder for this one with the tire strategy. We had to pit twice and I ended up nearly dead last so I had to work hard for it. I just kept my head down, kept it smart and was able to get into the lead.”

Jeffers’ drive from 15th on the grid secured him the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

The PFC Award went to VRD Racing’s Dan Mitchell as the winning car owner.

After a hectic day comprising official practice qualifying and the race, Saturday will be slightly more relaxed for the USF Juniors contingent with merely one more race to complete the schedule. The green flag is slated for 12:10 p.m., and McNeilly once again will start from the pole position by virtue of posting the best second-fastest lap by each driver during Friday morning’s lone period of qualifying.

RESULTS

Story originally appeared on Racer