Simon Sikes capped an almost perfect weekend for Pabst Racing at Portland International Raceway by recording his sixth win of the season in Sunday evening’s season finale. Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., on Friday clinched the USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown, as well as a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to ensure graduation to the next step on the open-wheel ladder, USF Pro 2000, in 2024. A one-two finish yesterday also secured a fifth teams’ championship since 2017 for Augie Pabst’s eponymous organization based in Oconomowoc, Wis.
Jacob Douglas couldn’t quite complete a weekend sweep of the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Portland, but still finished comfortably clear of VRD Racing’s Sam Corry, a winner earlier this year at Indianapolis, who earned a long overdue podium result in third.
Pabst Racing once again led the field to the green today with Douglas having secured his third straight Cooper Tires Pole Award ahead of Sikes and 14-year-old Max Garcia. But it was Sikes who won the start, slicing confidently around the outside line in Turn 1 at the notorious Festival Curves chicane before assuming the inside line, and the lead, in Turn 2. The two Pabst cars were once again clearly the class of the field as they immediately romped away from their pursuers.
Douglas dropped back a little during the middle stages of the 25-lap, all-green race before closing in again during the final stages. Sikes, though, was unmoved as he took the checkered flag 0.6653s ahead of his teammate and earned an eighth PFC Award of the year for Augie Pabst as the winning team owner.
“It was a great race. First of all, congrats to Jacob. He got the first two (wins) and we had a great race,” said Sikes. “I think we disappeared from everyone, but he kept the pressure on all race and didn’t make it easy at all. What a way to cap off the season with Pabst Racing — another one-two and I can’t tell you how much that means to us, the team and everybody here. On the championship weekend, it just means so much more. A big thanks to all my supporters. I couldn’t have done it without them. It was a whole group effort and I think we showed our strength this weekend.”
Corry executed a bold move at the first corner to vault from eighth on the grid to third. He maintained that position until the finish despite the best efforts of Thomas Schrage, who bounced back strongly from disappointing results on Friday and Saturday. Schrage, who had been fastest of all during the Thursday test day, had been obliged to switch to Exclusive Autosport’s backup car following difficulties in each of the first few races, but he adapted quickly and pressured Corry all the way to the checkered flag. Corry’s drive earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
After losing a couple of positions during the first few laps, Garcia chased Schrage gamely despite intense pressure from Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas.
Nikita Johnson also impressed once again for VRD Racing. Moments after briefly celebrating victory in the preceding USF Pro 2000 race, Johnson, 15, strapped himself aboard VRD Racing’s No. 17 USF2000 Tatuus and lined up sixth on the grid. Johnson found himself odd man out at the Festival Curves, forced into the escape road as teammate Corry scythed through from behind, whereupon Johnson charged from the back of the pack to seventh at the finish, only a couple of seconds behind Papasavvas.
The USF Pro Championships season will be formally wrapped up tomorrow evening at the traditional Championship Celebration in Portland. The focus then will switch toward the 2024 season, starting with the annual two-day USF Pro Fall Combine Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on October 21-22.
Provisional final championship points:
1. Simon Sikes, 447
2. Nikita Johnson, 344
3. Lochie Hughes, 335
4. Evagoras Papasavvas, 323
5. Mac Clark, 318
6. Jacob Douglas, 249
7. Sam Corry, 222
8. Jorge Garciarce, 212
9. Max Garcia, 207
10. Chase Gardner, 193