Jacob Douglas enjoyed a banner Friday at Portland International Raceway. So did Simon Sikes and team owner Augie Pabst. New Zealand’s Douglas (pictured above) first claimed his first-ever pole position, then later in the afternoon executed a perfect opening leg of the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Portland tripleheader by racing to an accomplished victory.
J ay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas kept Douglas on his toes by finishing just over a half-second behind in second place. Close behind, Sikes cruised home in third to secure the USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship and a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to guarantee graduation next year into USF Pro 2000, the next step on the USF Pro Championships ladder.
All of the leaders made it through the Festival Curves chicane on the opening lap relatively cleanly, although those in the midfield weren’t so fortunate. Cue a brief full-course caution.
Douglas remained undaunted at the front and kept a slender advantage throughout the 25-lap race. For most of the way it was Sikes who remained in his mirrors, but following a second, short full-course for some debris on the track — actually the headrest which had become dislodged and then fallen off Thomas Schrage’s Exclusive Autosport car — Papasavvas took over in second from Sikes and kept the pressure on Douglas until the checkered flag.
“I led every lap and Pabst gave me an amazing car,” said Douglas. “Massive thanks to them and congrats to Simon on the championship.”
Georgia’s Sikes chased hard in third before easing off on the final lap, secure in the knowledge that he had the championship crown firmly in his grasp.
“I don’t even know what I am feeling. It has been a rollercoaster throughout the year,” said Sikes. “It has been tough and it had its ups and downs. I mean, St. Petersburg couldn’t have started off worse, and it was a mountain to climb just to get here. To finally get this for Augie and the whole Pabst team – the first drivers’ championship for Pabst Racing — I am so happy to do it for the whole team including Burke Harrison, my engineer, and Bob Perona, my awesome driver coach, and everyone that made this possible. It means the world to me and I can’t thank everyone enough. The team has been phenomenal, the car is the fastest it has been all year and I just can’t thank Doug Mockett and everyone who supports me enough.”
Nikita Johnson forged his way from seventh on the grid to fourth for VRD Racing, well clear of Sikes’ only remaining championship rival, Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), who fought back from 14th to fifth after being involved in an incident at the first restart.
Hughes’ teammate Al Morey drove a sensible race to rise from 15th on the grid to seventh ahead of Canadian Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), who ran as high as fourth but lacked pace following an early skirmish and Gordon Scully (VRD Racing).
Hot on all their heels was Elliot Cox, who drove very impressively from 19th and last on the grid to 10th following a huge effort to repair a badly broken Tatuus USF-22 by his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development team following a crash in morning practice. Cox and his team were deserving recipients of the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
In addition to picking up another PFC Award as the winning car owner, Augie Pabst also celebrated both a long overdue first drivers’ championship for Sikes and the fact that Pabst Racing took over the lead of the teams’ championship from Jay Howard Driver Development. Pabst Racing now holds a slender eight-point lead heading into the final two races of the season. Round 17 will see the green flag Saturday at 2:15pm PT, followed by the season finale on Sunday at 4:20pm.
Provisional championship points after 16 of 18 races:
1. Simon Sikes, 390
2. Lochie Hughes, 316
3. Nikita Johnson, 308
4. Evagoras Papasavvas, 291
5. Mac Clark, 287
6. Sam Corry, 196
7. Chase Gardner, 193
8. Jacob Douglas, 190
9. Jorge Garciarce, 190
10. Max Garcia, 187