Michael d’Orlando Secures Pole While Jackson Lee Earns Top-Five Finish in Sebring
d’Orlando earned first series pole, Lee his best career finish, Browne an eighth place result
Sebring, Fla. (March 26, 2023) – USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion Michael d’Orlando secured his first Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season at this weekend’s doubleheader race event at the 3.74-mile, 17-turn road course of Sebring International Raceway. The USF Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires rookie eked out the fastest lap time in Saturday’s qualifying session to take the lead spot for Race 2 with less than .1 seconds separating the three fastest drivers.
d'Orlando’s weekend got off to a tough start with the 21-year-old wrecking his #1 USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems car in official practice after being unable to avoid contact with a separate incident that occurred in front of him. The Turn 3 Motorsport crew quickly got the car repaired in time for the first qualifying session later that day where d’Orlando qualified a solid P5 with just .1 seconds spacing out the top five qualifiers. Unfortunately, bad luck followed d’Orlando into Race 1 when his wheel speed sensor failed before the race even went green, forcing him into the pits for repairs. After falling two laps down, he was able to rejoin the field in an effort to salvage some points and ended up with a P16 finish in the first of two races.
Proving his resilience against adversity, the Hartsdale, N.Y. native put his car on pole the next day only to suffer further disappointment in Race 2 when he uncharacteristically lost control in Turn 1, spinning him around and causing him to lose his advantage. d’Orlando quickly regained control of the car and continued before being spun around again at Turn 4, this time getting stuck and falling to the back of the field.
The USF2000 champion was able to remain on the lead lap, however, and spent the following race laps chipping away at the gap between him and the car in front of him, gaining over three seconds a lap at one point and putting out lap times as fast as the overall leader. A caution flag near the end of the race allowed d’Orlando to fully close the gap to the back of the field then on the restart, gain three positions in one lap of racing. Another yellow flag then came out, leaving the field with one final lap of racing where d’Orlando gained another four positions, ultimately fighting his way up to P11.
#1 Michael d'Orlando // USF Pro 2000
USF Pro Championships/Priority Payments Systems/Focused Project Management/Rising Star Racing/UFC Gym Mamaroneck/Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus IP-22
“This past weekend at Sebring was a big test for me and the team,” said d’Orlando. “We thought we could turn around our luck from St Pete, but misfortune kept coming our way. I don’t really have the words to describe these past few races, but I can tell you this: We will not stop. We will not quit. Life will continue to push us down, but we will keep getting back up, keep our heads high, and persevere. That’s what we do. Let’s go get it at Indianapolis.”
Teammate and USF Pro 2000 rookie Jackson Lee earned a best career finish of fifth in Race 2 after dicing it out with his competitors throughout the 15-lap event. After starting 12th, the Indiana native kept his eyes forward and worked his #47 IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Browning Chapman/Prime 47 car up to ninth by Lap 8. As he continued to push hard to make gains, chaos in the final corners of the race opened the door for Lee to slide past a group of cars and take home a well-earned fifth place finish as well as the Tilton Hard Charger Award for the most positions gained in the race.
#47 Jackson Lee // USF Pro 2000
IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center/Race for RP/Prime 47/Browning Chapman
“What an end to the weekend,” said Lee. “I am super happy with being able to put the car up into the top-five to wrap up our time at Sebring. I can’t wait to get back home again in Indiana for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP weekend. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and to Turn 3 Motorsport for their hard work again this weekend!”
The events of day one in Sebring saw Lee put out the eighth fastest time in official practice, less than a second off of P1. A challenging qualifying run put Lee 17th for the start of Race 1, and the 20-year-old ended up with a 13th place result following a strong race run.
Jonathan Browne had a good start to the weekend, coming in ninth overall in Friday’s official practice only one second off the overall fastest time. A decent qualifying run later that day put the 22-year-old P11 for the start of Race 1, setting him up for a competitive effort in the race. After putting up a good fight throughout the 15-lap event, Browne ended up with a P12 race result and the chance for a fresh start the following day with a second qualifying session and race on the schedule.
The Irishman had a much stronger qualifying run on Saturday, setting the third fastest lap time in his #2 JB Racing Tatuus IP-22 in the opening minutes and remaining determined to deliver his best lap time during the session. Against a very tight field of competition, Browne ended up P11 in Qualifying 2 just .614 seconds off pole after a red flag ended the session a bit prematurely. Race 2 saw Browne climb upwards in the field as he took advantage of opportunities to improve positions, ultimately giving him a hard fought eighth place finish in the final race of the weekend.
#2 Jonathan Browne // USF Pro 2000
JB Racing / Motorsport Ireland / CRPS Awareness
“Unfortunately it wasn’t the greatest weekend for me,” said Browne. “I struggled to find a rhythm out there on Friday but managed to claw my way forward the next day, pick up some of the pieces in the race, and come away with an eighth place finish. Nevertheless, we keep moving forward and are focused on putting it all together at the upcoming Indy GP in May.”
Turn 3 Motorsport Team Owner
“It was an extremely tough weekend for our team,” said Team Owner Peter Dempsey. “The team as a group did a fantastic job this weekend, and it’s so unfortunate that we don’t have more to show for our efforts. All we can do is put this weekend behind us and remain focused on our jobs. We have a few tests between now and Indy GP, so I’m looking forward to that. We know we will be back fighting hard at Indy!”
Rounds 5/6 of the USF Pro Championships take place at the Indianapolis Motorsport Speedway Grand Prix circuit from May 11-13.
To stay up to date on Turn 3 Motorsport, follow the team on social media using the handle @turn3motorsport.
Gavin Baker Photo / USF Pro Championships