Mazda Road to Indy, Houston day 1: Official race reports

Indy Lights, IndyCar News/Releases, Pro Mazda, USF2000 — By on October 5, 2013 7:57 pm
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[Source: Firestone Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, and USF2000 press releases]

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KARAM CLAIMS FLAG-TO-FLAG WIN AT GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON

Sage Karam held off Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian teammate Gabby Chaves to win the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Houston.

Karam’s first road/street circuit victory, while three of the four fellow title contenders faltered in the penultimate race of the season, set up a winner-take-all scenario with Chaves at Auto Club Speedway on Oct. 19. Karam leads by 16 points.

Karam, who started from the pole in the No. 8 Schmidt Peterson with Curb Agajanian after the lineup was set by entrant points, led every lap in the timed race on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn course.

Carlos Munoz, who entered the race two points behind Karam, finished a season-low 12th and was eliminated from title contention. So was Jack Hawksworth, who was 11 points behind but finished sixth. Peter Dempsey also was eliminated.

POST-RACE NOTES:

  • Rookie and series points leader Sage Karam recorded his third career Firestone Indy Lights victory and his first on a road/street course. His two prior victories took place this season in consecutive races on the ovals at Milwaukee and Iowa.
  • This is the seventh Firestone Indy Lights victory this season for the three-car Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team.
  • Gabby Chaves placed second, earning his ninth podium finish in 11 starts this season.
  • Conor Daly placed third, earning a podium finish in his first Firestone Indy Lights start this season.
  • Rookie Axcil Jefferies finished fifth, the first top-five result of his Firestone Indy Lights career. His previous best was seventh at Baltimore, his only previous series start.
  • Jack Hawksworth placed sixth, ending a streak of three consecutive podium finishes. His last result off the podium was fifth in July at Pocono.
  • Peter Dempsey placed ninth, tying his lowest result of the season, in April at Long Beach.
  • Carlos Munoz finished 12th, his worst result of the season. His previous low was ninth in September at Baltimore.

QUOTEBOARD:

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian, winner): “I can’t be happy enough with the team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They give an awesome car to me every week. To get this opportunity to go for the championship, I’m so thrilled about it, this being my first year in the series.” (About racing teammate Gabby Chaves for the championship): “I know a couple of the guys that had been running up front for the championship had some bad luck today. I just have to focus on what I was doing, stay consistent, like I said, and bring the thing home. We brought it home and got maximum points going into Fontana. It’s good to know that I’m racing my teammate now for the championship because I’ve got all his data, and I can see everything he’s doing. I’ve got the same car as him. Let’s just let the best man win.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports c/w Curb-Agajanian, second): “We were definitely way quicker than Sage (Karam). Even running in the dirty air, we could catch up to him and stay with him. It was just a bit of an unlucky thing that we had to start on the grid based on championship points and not with who’s the fastest driver out there. We take it as it is, and we’ll keep pushing for the next weekend at Fontana.” (About battling his teammate for the Firestone Indy Lights championship): “Hats off to the whole SPM crew. They always put out the best cars that they can, and more than often, they are the best cars on the grid. Congrats to them. It’s great that we’re two teammates fighting for the title. Today could have been different had we qualified, but it is what it is. We’ll keep pushing to take the fight to him at Fontana.”

CONOR DALY (No. 22 TMR-RUS Industrial-ALS Association, third): “I just had to be patient, really. I’m still learning the track and the car. When I went by (Jorge) Goncalvez, I finally figured out that I can trust this thing a little bit more on the brakes. But when I got around him, there was a mile-and-half gap. I have to thank Team Moore and all of our sponsors – RUS Industrial and the ALS Association. We got screwed by not qualifying. Me and Peter (Dempsey) both proved we were fast. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to qualify.”

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BRABHAM NOTCHES WIN NUMBER 12 ON STREETS OF HOUSTON

Team Pelfrey Teammates Pigot and Costa Round Out Podium

Houston, Texas – While Andretti Autosport’s Matthew Brabham locked up the Pro Mazda Championship Powered by Cooper Tires title prior to this weekend’s season-ending pair of Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Houston races, it didn’t stop the 19-year-old from continuing his winning ways. Brabham was solid out-of-the-gate on the 1.634-miles, 10-turn temporary street circuit, starting on pole and claiming another victory to break his own records of most wins (12) and podiums (14) in a single season. He has now added one more record to his sensational season, besting 2012 champion Jack Hawksworth for most fastest race laps with 12.

Spencer Pigot of Team Pelfrey, who qualified third, was able to pass Brabham’s teammate and front row starter Shelby Blackstock on Lap 2 to finish second and claim his fifth podium of the season – which included a debut win at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – and valuable points. Pigot is now two markers shy of Blackstock, who is currently third in the standings heading into the finale tomorrow.

Nicolas Costa made a return appearance with Team Pelfrey after a partial season of six races, which included two third-place drives. Costa, who last competed at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August, had no problem dusting off the cobwebs. After qualifying sixth, he quickly made his way up to fifth before a slight mishap sent him back to seventh. He rebounded, making his way through the field to a third-place drive.

Blackstock was relegated to fourth with Diego Ferreira of Juncos Racing in fifth – his first time off the podium in the past six races. With his result today and season tally of one win and 11 top-three finishes, Ferreira has solidified his runner-up finish in the championship.

Jay Horak of M1 Racing picked up his first Expert Class win today to take the championship lead heading into tomorrow’s finale.

Contingency awards included the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award which went to Costa for a gain of three positions, the Staubli Award to Michael Whelden of World Speed Motorsports, and the PFC Award to the winning team of Andretti Autosport.

Race 2 of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Houston will be green at 7:45 am CT.

QUOTEBOARD:

Matthew Brabham, #83 MAZDASPEED/AFS Racing/Team Andretti Autosport (Andretti Autosport) – First: “I think the person that had the least pressure on him this weekend is my dad. Last year, when it came to the wire between Spencer and myself for the championship, he was wearing the bottom of his shoes off. I just went with the flow this weekend. I am having fun and enjoying it while it lasts. This is a great track. I find it a lot of fun and it is very challenging with the bumps and how the track is – it really separates the really good drivers from the good drivers.”

Spencer Pigot, #81 Doug Mockett & Company/Gap Guard/Parathyroid.com/California Scents/OMP (Team Pelfrey) – Second: “At the beginning of the race, I was able to get by Shelby on Lap 2 and I was trying to catch up to Matt. This is the first weekend in a long time that we have been this competitive and it is good to be up here fighting for podium positions. Overall, it was a good race and I am happy to be back on the podium.”

Nicolas Costa, #82 Pelfrey Performance/GetGapGuard.com/Alufama/Inova Mkt. (Team Pelfrey) – Third: “The race was quite hard in every sense, but especially physically. For me to struggle with heat is really hard because I come from a really hot city. Today was the toughest race physically for me because it was so humid. The track is great. It was a fun race. I exchanged positions a lot of times with several drivers. In the end, I was able to carry good momentum and close up on Shelby and finish on the podium. I am very pleased for the podium especially because we were never in the top three in practice. To charge for the podium is unbelievable and I have to thank everyone who helped me come back to Pro Mazda and Team Pelfrey.”

Jay Horak, #37 AutoEnginuity (M1 Racing) – First Expert: “This circuit was a little hard for me. I have done street circuits but I didn’t have the confidence to really get in deep in some of these corners with a lot of speed. I started building it up at the end there and feel a little more comfortable. This is definitely a race I will remember; it was one heck of a race. It was very challenging.”

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HARGROVE CLAIMS CHAMPION’S CROWN ON STREETS OF HOUSTON

Teammate Alberico Adds Win Number Six While Rettich Takes National Class Title

HOUSTON, Texas – Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver Scott Hargrove captured the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion’s title today in fine fashion. Hargrove did what he needed to do to ensure that the battle for the title would not go down to the season-ending Marlin CNG Services Grand Prix of Houston Race 2 tomorrow by starting from pole and bringing home a third-place finish.

Hargrove, 18, of Vancouver, BC, Canada, roared into the championship point lead at the start of the season collecting three wins in the first four events. It was a lead he would not relinquish despite pressure from teammate and now championship runner-up Neil Alberico, who took the challenge for the top honor down to the wire on the streets of Houston.

Finding his niche with the back-to-back championship-winning Cape Motorsports team, Hargrove shone, capturing four wins, nine podiums, five fastest race laps and six poles aboard the #38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing entry.

Hargrove, who was a Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner a scant two years ago, finished second in the 2011 Skip Barber Summer Series and was Rookie of the Year before graduating to USF2000 last year in a partial season that saw his progress culminate in his first podium in the season finale at Baltimore.

He will be presented with his Mazda Road to Indy prize of a scholarship package from Mazda valued at over $383,000 to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014 tomorrow evening at the series’ awards banquet to be held at the St. Regis Houston.

Alberico needed two wins and some misfortune on Hargrove’s part to take the series crown. He proved he was up to the task with a magnificent pass on a late race restart to take the lead and claim his sixth win of the season.

Henrik Furuseth, with PRL Motorsports, who posted his best starting position of the season in third, also found a way past Hargrove to claim his first USF2000 podium after earning the National Class champion’s title last season. Furuseth also posted the fastest lap and will start on pole for Race 2 tomorrow – another career first.

Wyatt Gooden of Afterburner Autosport added another impressive drive to go from 11th to fourth as did Michael Epps of Belardi Auto Racing, who notched his third top-five of the year.

Capturing his tenth National Class Presented by SCCA Enterprises win, Alliance Autosport team owner/driver Scott Rettich sealed the champion’s title.

Contingency awards included the Tilton Hard Charger Award which went to Austin Cindric of Andretti Autosport – his second of the year – for a gain of nine positions, the Staubli Award to Gooden, the PFC Award to the winning car owners of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Alliance Autosport and the National Class Masters Award Presented by Elite/Comprent to Rettich.

Race 2 of the Marlin CNG Services Grand Prix of Houston will be underway at 9:45 am.

QUOTEBOARD:

Scott Hargrove, #38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) – Champion: “We came into today with a good lead in the championship and I knew that I just needed a solid finish to end the championship today and that’s exactly what we did. I went all out in qualifying and was able to get the pole on the last lap, which was pretty thrilling. I took the lead off the start and it was probably the calmest place I could have been and the most in-control place for me to be to secure the championship. As soon as the yellow came out, I knew that I would be hard-pressed to keep the lead from Neil who wanted to win. He got the jump and was able to win the race, but it didn’t matter to me. Finishing third feels like a win because of the championship we have won. I have to thank USF2000, the whole Mazda Road to Indy and Mazda for giving me a great platform to race on, and the prize that they have handed out is second to none. I am thrilled and I just couldn’t be happier.”

Neil Alberico, #2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&M Trophy (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing)- First: “I am pretty excited about how today ended. It has been a really good season with my teammate Scott Hargrove – and congratulations to him first of all on the championship. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing have done an incredible job the entire season. There’s one more race left tomorrow and I think that one is going to be all about pride. We are all going to go out and try to win it. Today was a great day for the team and a big thanks to them and all of my supporters this year.”

Henrik Furuseth, #96 Truck Nation/Palfinger/Akrene Mek Verksted (PRL Motorsports) – Second: “It has been a very good day. I had a good start and was able to keep up with the Cape Motorsports’ guys and stay with them the whole race. I saw Neil passing Scott at the end and I used the opportunity to pass Scott as well. I am very thrilled with second place today, very happy. I love the race track. It is so technical and hectic; it’s very good. I am looking forward to starting on the pole tomorrow. We knew we were fast today, and I am going to try to be one more step higher on the podium tomorrow.”

Scott Rettich, #71 PDI Communication Systems/Springboro Car Wash (Alliance Autosport) – National Class Champion: “Today was more difficult for us because we put the off-road setup on the car – we raised it up and stiffened it up to make sure we could clear the bumps. It was pretty twitchy and definitely rougher even though the track was the same. Luckily, I was able to keep it off the wall and keep the pedal down. I had a solid start and stayed in the lead. I was cautious at the start as always because you never know what is around the next corner but I was able to open up a gap. On the restart, I was careful to let the Championship cars go by without losing the lead in my own class.”

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