Heading to St. Petersburg, Florida, and the first round of the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires season, TJ Speed entered three fierce and hungry competitors in their quest to kick off the season victorious. With series rookies Lirim Zendelli, Francesco Pizzi, and Christian Weir flying the TJ Speed colors, the trio left St. Pete with three top-five results and four top-ten finishes as both the team and all the drivers made their series debuts.
Leading the way on the results sheets was Pizzi as a second-place effort in qualifying on Friday netted him a fourth-place result in the first wheel-to-wheel action on the weekend. Showing pace through practice and battling at the front of the field all weekend long, Pizzi doubled up his top-five results over the weekend with a fifth-place result Sunday despite never seeing the St. Pete Street course prior to the track walk on Thursday afternoon. Additionally, Francesco earned the fastest lap in the first wheel-to-wheel action on the weekend which helped him secure the pole position for race two, his first career pole position in the USF Pro Championships program.
Lirim Zendelli had an impressive series debut in race one as an issue in qualifying saw him start from 19th on the grid for race one on Saturday. With a never give up attitude, Zendelli was on a mission as he kept his nose clean and sliced his way toward the front of the field crossing the stripe in the fourth position when the checkered flag flew. Earning a P4 starting spot for race two Sunday that would take place following the NTT INDYCAR Series, Zendelli ran into trouble and was classified in the 16th position.
Leveling up from USF2000 to USF Pro 2000 in 2023, Christian Weir made his series debut and did so with a top-ten result. After qualifying in the 13th position, Weir was able to stay out of trouble and net his first-career USF Pro 2000 top-ten result. Looking to improve on that finish Sunday, Weir failed to make the full race distance and ended his weekend with a P17 finish on the results sheets.
“Definitely some highs and lows for us as a team this weekend but all-in-all it was not a bad debut in the USF Pro Championships for us,” expressed Team Owner Tim Neff. “It is always tough going to a street circuit for the very first time, but our drivers did well. Looking forward to getting back to Sebring in a few weeks, a track that I feel we will be very strong at.”
Photos: RTD Media