[Source: Pro Mazda and USF2000 press releases]
BRABHAM CAPS OFF SEASON WITH WIN NUMBER 13 AT HOUSTON
Houston, Texas – Matthew Brabham’s sensational debut season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires came to a close today with another dominant performance on the streets of Houston. Brabham made a clean sweep of the pair of Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Houston races on the temporary street circuit to set new milestones in the series, ending with records for most wins (13), most podiums (15) and most fastest laps (13) in a single season.
Brabham did not always make it easy on himself. Starting as far back as eighth at St. Petersburg – his worse starting position – he proved that he and his championship-winning Andretti Autosport team were up to any challenges.
Tonight Brabham will be presented with his Mazda Road to Indy champion’s prize package of a scholarship from Mazda worth over $636,000 to advance to Indy Lights competition next year. Brabham is the first driver to advance in succession on the ladder from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda to Pro Mazda and now Indy Lights.
Brabham started on pole and drove off into the distance, at one time amassing a gap of over six seconds. Nicolas Costa, who started fourth, continued to impress with Team Pelfrey claiming back to back podiums this weekend with a second-place drive today. Juan Piedrahita of JDC MotorSports rounded out the podium – his fifth of the year – after starting fifth.
With his sixth-place finish today, Shelby Blackstock of Andretti Autosport secured third in the final standings.
Jay Horak of M1 Racing picked up his second win today to take the Expert Class hampionship title with M1 Racing.
Contingency awards included the Staubli Award and Quarter Master Hard Charger Award which went to Michele Bumgarner of World Speed Motorsports – making her debut with World Speed Motorsports this season in the #6 Mazda Philippines entry – for a gain of four positions, and the PFC Award to the winning team of Andretti Autosport.
Matthew Brabham, #83 MAZDASPEED/AFS Racing/Team Andretti Autosport (Andretti Autosport) – First: “Today was great. It is so important to get those first few laps really down. I managed to get good restarts and it looked like the guys behind me were battling all the time so it was lucky for me to get that little break. My season with Andretti has been incredible. We got along really well instantly at the start of the season. I can’t describe the job they have done this year. Every single session, we have been 100 percent on top of our game and it translated into results. I can’t thank them enough. It was such a fun year. I have to thank all the people who supported me. Mazda, especially, have been wonderful to me these last couple of years and I am looking forward to continuing on the Mazda Road to Indy. I am very thankful for the opportunity that they have given me.”
Nicolas Costa, #82 Pelfrey Performance/GetGapGuard.com/Alufama/Inova Mkt. (Team Pelfrey) – Second: “All of the restarts and even the start was pretty crazy. If you don’t overtake, you get overtaken by somebody and that’s what happened at the start for me. Juan overtook me and also Diego [Ferreira]. After that, I knew I had to be really aggressive on all the restarts otherwise I would just drop and drop and that is what I tried to do. My car was really good again. I have to thank Team Pelfrey and all of my sponsors and everybody that supports me. I am over the moon to be on the podium again and to be able to charge from the back is great. It’s also fun to have such great battles on the race track with everyone being clean with each other and respecting their space.”
Juan Piedrahita, #9 Petrosur/Sisoclec/GFK Motors/Red Line Oil (JDC MotorSports) – Third: “We have been pretty strong this weekend and we were actually pretty close to Matthew in practice, so we were happy and confident. We had issues in qualifying and Race 1 didn’t go the way we wanted. I came today and wanted to finish the season on the podium. I had a rocket ship. The guys gave me a really fast car. I just had to be good on the restarts and that’s what I did and I am really happy to be here.”
Jay Horak, #37 AutoEnginuity (M1 Racing) – First Expert: “I found three seconds in 14 hours for the race today and there was a lot left in there. I passed a couple of cars and there was one lap left where I thought I could get another one and, with too many yellows, I couldn’t get it done. It was nice to charge and try to get in the middle of the pack and get some good racing. The IndyCars laid down a lot of good rubber and we could even use a little bit more of the curbing. I was more courageous on the exits. I found grip there that yesterday we wouldn’t have found. I am really glad to win the championship. We had a couple of chances before but a technical or mechanical issue locked me out. It’s nice to get a podium and the championship to cap off the season.”
BARON/AFTERBURNER AUTOSPORT CHARGE TO VICTORY AT HOUSTON
HOUSTON, Texas – Today’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season finale – the Marlin CNG Services Grand Prix of Houston – took place under wet conditions – a stark contrast to the heat that greeted competitors the past few days. Henrik Furuseth of PRL Motorsports claimed his career-best starting position to lead the field to the green.
A slight bobble allowed both Alexandre “Alex” Baron of Afterburner Autosport and Neil Alberico of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing to slip past but Furuseth quickly regained the position over Alberico. Behind them ensued an action-packed battle on the slippery race track, including the elimination of champion Scott Hargrove on Lap 3 with handling issues after a spin.
Baron stormed off into the distance to claim his second win in only four starts of the season with the Afterburner squad. Furuseth closed out his season with back-to-back podiums claiming second place today. Championship runner-up Alberico, who won yesterday, finished third.
Several drivers posted their best results of the season including Austin Cindric of Andretti Autosport, who finished seventh, and Clark Toppe of JDC MotorSports, with an 11th-place.
Championship-wise behind the Cape Motorsports’ teammates, Garett Grist secured a third-place finish in the standings and Rookie of the Year honors, with Furuseth fourth and Wyatt Gooden, also of Afterburner Autosport, fifth.
Newly-crowned National Class champion Scott Rettich continued to keep Alliance Autosport’s 100 percent win record alive with his victory today.
Contingency awards included the Staubli and Tilton Hard Charger Award to Brandon Newey of Afterburner Autosport/BHA with Curb/Agajanian for a gain of 12 positions from 17th to fifth, the the PFC Award to the winning car owners of Afterburner Autosport and Alliance Autosport and the National Class Masters Award Presented by Elite/Comprent to Rettich.
Alex Baron, #18 13th Avenue (Afterburner Autosport) – First: “Rain is not a problem for me. I have been driving in the rain since I was small so I have a good feeling with it. The car was very good and I would like to thank my team for that. It was a perfect race for me. I tried to pull away as far as possible for the first laps and be careful for the rest of the race because I know this track is quite tricky in some areas and I didn’t want to lose my race for a simple mistake. I pulled away and managed to keep the pace. I would like to thank Afterburner Autosport and everyone that surrounds me.”
Henrik Furuseth, #96 Truck Nation/Palfinger/Akrene Mek Verksted (PRL Motorsports) – Second: “I didn’t have a good start. I spun the tires and I fell back to fourth but I was able to get back up to second the same lap and stay there the whole race. Neil pushed me hard but I was able to stay in front of him. My car was good but I had nothing for Alex. He was just flying out there so congrats to him on the win. I have to thank my team PRL Motorsports for a good car this weekend and the whole year. I have to thank Co-Force International, and also Truck Nation for being our partner this weekend.”
Neil Alberico, #2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&M Trophy (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing)- Third: “The restarts were pretty intense because you had to be aggressive. Henrik did a great job and the same with Alex, so congratulations to them. It was a fun race. You try everything you can to get around these guys but everyone is so good that it is tough. It was a great race by everyone and a good way to end the season. A big thanks to Mazda, Cooper Tires, the USF2000 Series and the whole Mazda Road to Indy program. I think it has been a great year.”
Scott Rettich, #71 PDI Communication Systems/Springboro Car Wash (Alliance Autosport) – National Class Champion: “Visibility was really tough being behind 10 to 15 cars and you never really knew what would be around the corner. There are a lot of people I need to thank for wrapping up the National championship this weekend – Marlin CNG Services, Mazda for their huge support of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, PDI Communications and my team Alliance Autosport for an awesome effort all year.”