By Jeroen Demmendaal
In previous years, the USF2000 field featured a neat mixture of returning drivers and fresh talent, but this year there will be a lot of rookies. Partly, this is by design; a large number of drivers have made the step up from USF Juniors, the new entry-level series that series promotor Andersen Promotions launched in 2022.
USF Juniors was designed as a new step between karting and USF2000, and it has done just that: four of last year’s top-five finishers in Juniors have graduated for 2023. Likewise, several of last year’s USF2000 stars have moved up to USF Pro 2000 or even Indy NXT, in line with how the ladder should work. Of the top 10 in the 2022 standings, six have moved on to greater things.
The surprise is that quite a few other challengers of the 2022 season won’t return in 2023. Instead, out of about 20 full-time cars, there will be no fewer than 14 official series rookies, even if some of them sniffed at USF2000 competition already at the end of 2022. That means it’s harder than ever to predict who will rule the school in 2023; it also means we have a very exciting season ahead, as talent scouts seek to identify the IndyCar stars of the future.
Another big change with potentially serious consequences is that the reigning teams’ champions, Cape Motorsports, have left the series. Along with Pabst Racing, Cape have been the big kingmakers in the modern USF2000 era, but they have graduated to Indy NXT and sold their smaller cars. Who will fill their shoes and become the new go-to team for USF2000 champions-in-waiting?
A prime candidate is DEForce Racing, the only other team outside Cape and Pabst to deliver a driver champion since 2010. The team run by David and Ernesto Martinez returns with three cars, one of which will be filled by reigning USF Juniors champion Mac Clark – who is without doubt one of the most exciting talents in the field this year.
The Canadian may only be 18, but he has already been compared to his illustrious compatriots Greg Moore and Paul Tracy. Too much pressure? Maybe so, but after 2022, when he combined USF Juniors with Formula Regional Americas and won a race in his first USF2000 outing at Portland, many observers are convinced that he’s the next big thing from up north.
Reigning USF Juniors champion Clark will be stepping up to USF2000 this year | Credit: José Mário Dias
The other DEForce cars will be driven by George Garciarce and Maxwell Jamieson. Garciarce, whose given name is Jorge but who prefers George in the US, had a quiet rookie season with Jay Howard in 2022, finishing 13th overall. The Mexican will have to start challenging for podiums and be a regular in the top 10. As for Jamieson, expectations for his rookie year are low. He was 15th overall in USF Juniors last year, so he’ll simply have to keep his car in one piece, finish races and learn.
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