With multiple test days at the Sebring International Raceway, it was time for the first race event for the USF Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competitors. Entering three hungry competitors over the double race weekend, TJ Speed closed the weekend with a pair of podium results and left the weekend sitting third and fourth in the overall championship point standings.
“Good weekend for us in Florida,” explained Tim Neff, Owner of TJ Speed. “We are getting so close to the first USF Pro Championships win, and I am confident that it will come very soon.”
Qualifying saw Pizzi lead the way for the TJ Speed trio as a solid lap in the timed session slotted the series rookie into the third position, a scant .117 behind the quickest time of the session. Zendelli put a pair of TJ Speed competitors in the top-ten with a seventh-place effort while Weir would be forced to start from row seven and the 14th position on the grid.
Race one was a 15-lap affair and TJ Speed added another podium to their USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires resume at the hands of Pizzi. Battling hard at the front of the field, Pizzi challenged early on for the win but faded late in the race. With the focus on maintaining his podium position, Pizzi kept a handful of competitors at bay to celebrate on the podium and move into P2 in the overall championship points table. Both Zendelli and Weir were able to advance forward on track to finish sixth and tenth respectively as all three TJ Speed drivers finished in the top-ten in the first wheel-to-wheel action of the weekend.
The second qualifying session of the weekend set the grid for race two and was on the schedule Saturday morning as a pair of red flags slowed the progress of all competitors with the final red flag ending the session. Pizzi once again led the three TJ Speed competitors with a second-place result, this time .056 behind the eventual pole position winner. Lining up behind Pizzi, Zendelli slotted into the fourth position and on the outside of row two while Weir would have some work to do starting from the 16th position as the final red flag hindered his chances to lay down a fast lap.
Race two rolled off the grid Saturday afternoon with all three TJ Speed drivers looking to reset their season-best results. Starting second, Pizzi fell to third in the opening corner as he looked to stay out of trouble with Zendelli advancing to fourth to put TJ Speed drivers second and third by the close of the opening lap. A lap later, a spin by a fellow competitor advanced the TJ Speed drivers forward with Zendelli getting by Pizzi as Pizzi fell to fifth. With a lack of speed due to mid-race contact, Pizzi continued to fall down the order but finally settled in back in the tenth position with Weir back in 15th.
A quick caution period on lap nine would bunch the field back together for a late-race restart and a run to the checkered flag. Zendelli restarted in the second position as he looked to fight for his, and TJ Speed’s, first USF Pro 2000 victory of the season. Putting pressure on the eventual race winner, Zendlli was unable to get by and settled for the second step of the podium. Pizzia recovered to a P7 result getting by a few USF Pro 2000 drivers on the final circuit as Weir moved from 15th to 13th over the course of the race and scored the tenth fastest lap of the race.
With rounds three and four now in the books, it will be six weeks off before TJ Speed, Pizzi, Zendelli, and Weir will be back on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the May 11-13 weekend NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekend.
Photos: RTD Media