Circuit of The Americas (COTA) was the final race weekend of the 2023 season for the USF Junior Presented by Cooper Tires drivers and Jimmie Lockhart did not disappoint. The VRD Racing pilot was presented with his final three chances to secure his main goal for the 2023 season, a victory.
The weekend at the Circuit of the Americas started off strong for Lockhart. Keeping within the top-three during both testing sessions and into practice one, Lockhart knew it was his last weekend to prove himself and chase that victory he was hunting for all season.
“Being constantly within the top-five this season, we knew we had the pace to be on the top step of the podium,” explained Lockhart. “Coming into this final weekend, the team and I wanted to do everything possible to end off on a high note. Making the most of the opportunities available at COTA was my focus.”
Saturday rolled around and the heat was very apparent both on and off the track with temperatures throughout the weekend north of the 100F mark. Qualifying and race one were not shaping out to be easy. As qualifying was underway, Lockhart had made good headway setting himself up with the fifth fastest lap of the session as a red flag flew with five and a half minutes remaining. Luckily the lap time was quick enough to hold when the session went back green as the Floridian secured himself a fifth place start for race one.
As the first wheel-to-wheel action got underway, Lockhart kept the battle tough for the leaders from the initial start advancing up to third. Light contact between Lockhart benefited and moved Jimmie up to second. The battle for position did not stop there as the driver in third was focused on closing the gap. As the race ended, Jimmie was unable to hold onto his podium position and crossed the line fourth after continual battles with the leaders.
Sunday came quickly and with it, the final day of the 2023 season was among the USF Junior competitors. With Rounds 15 and 16 only hours away Lockhart knew they were his final two chances to stand on the top step of the podium and secure his win that he was working for the entire 2023 season.
In race two, Lockhart started in the sixth position with victory just a few places ahead. Suffering contact on lap one, Jimmie didn’t let that waver him as a yellow flag flew. As the yellow flag turned to red and the race was halted, it was time to prepare for the restart. As the green flag flew once again, Lockhart was able to move up to second momentarily before falling back to third. With five laps remaining contact between first and second left the track wide open for Jimmie to jump to the point and potentially score his first win of the season. Coming to the checkered flag, Lockhart and his entire VRD Racing team knew that they had accomplished their goal of standing on the top step of the podium bringing home his first win of the season.
With little time to celebrate, race three started similar to race two with contact on lap one bringing out a yellow flag. Jimmie had moved up to secure third as they lined up behind the safety car. This however would not be the only yellow flag. Shortly after going green another yellow flag flew with Lockhart continuing to hold the third position. As the green flag waved with just over 12 minutes remaining, drivers headed into turn one as the leaders went wide, once again leaving an opportunity for the lead Jimmie was not turning down. Moving to the front and keeping the lead, Lockhart brought home a pair of back-to-back first-place victories in the final two races of the 2023 season. Not only did he achieve his goal for the year of getting a win, but he doubled it up with a pair of victories to close the season strong.
“What a weekend,” added Lockhart. “Thank you to VRD Racing and everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. We have no plan yet for the 2024 season but hoping these results show what we can do.”
For more information on Jimmie Lockhart, please visit him via his social media pages by searching Jimmie Lockhart Racing.
Photo Credit: Gavin Baker Photography