[Source: Pro Mazda / USF2000 press releases]
Grist Wins, Pigot Leads Points After Cooper Tires Winterfest Pro Mazda Double-Header
New Orleans, La., February 22 – This afternoon’s second round of the Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires was decided at the start when outside front row qualifier Garett Grist jumped clear of the field at the rolling start. The teenaged rookie from Grimsby, Ont., Canada took full advantage by romping to a decisive win for Andretti Autosport.
Polesitter Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) fell to sixth before Turn One, but charged back through the field and was able to regain second place when Brazilian debutant Pipo Derani made a mistake with just three corners remaining in the 18-lap race. Pigot now leads the standings by 10 points over Grist as the mini-series heads almost immediately to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for two more races on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 25/26.
The top seven cars ran virtually in nose-to-tail formation for the opening five laps before Grist, a race winner last year in USF2000, settled into his stride and began to inch clear. He finally took the checkered flag 4.495 seconds clear of Pigot.
With all of the cars on the inside of the starting lineup bottled up behind Pigot when the race went green, Derani (Team Pelfrey) saw his opportunity and vaulted all the way from sixth to second. He remained under pressure initially from Scott Hargrove, who won last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, and then from the fast-recovering Pigot.
Pigot set the fastest lap of the race as he tried to find a way past Derani, and his efforts finally paid off in Turn 13 on the 18th and final lap when Derani left his braking a little too late, slid slightly wide, and Pigot immediately filled the gap.
Hargrove completed his rookie Pro Mazda weekend for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing with a fine run to fourth, while 17-year-old Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) held off a race-long challenge from both Jose Gutierrez (Juncos Racing), from Monterrey, Mexico, and Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) for fifth.
Dalton Kellett (Team Pelfrey), from Stouffville, Ont., Canada, Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) and Michael Johnson (JDC MotorSports) completed the top 10.
Garett Grist #27 DaVinci Foods/Lander Property Management (Andretti Autosport):
“Today was a great day. It was our second start in Pro Mazda and I started second again. Yesterday I had a poor start and fell back, but luckily today I was able to make a good one. I put my head down from out front and just knocked off consistent laps until the end.”
Pigot Begins Cooper Tires Winterfest for Pro Mazda with a Dominant Victory
New Orleans, La., February 21 – Spencer Pigot began the new season precisely as he wanted at NOLA Motorsports Park. The 20-year-old from Orlando, Fla., qualified on pole position for 2010 championship-winning team Juncos Racing, jumped into a clear lead at the start and was never seriously challenged. Pigot also set the fastest lap of the race for good measure to ensure he would start from the pole in Race 2 tomorrow afternoon.
Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., finished second for Andretti Autosport, while teenager Kyle Kaiser, from San Jose Calif., claimed third in a second Juncos Racing entry. All three podium finishers are entering their second season of Pro Mazda competition.
Pigot, who endured a disappointing rookie campaign in 2013 after winning a total of 11 races in USF2000 over the previous two years and only narrowly missing out on the championship title on each occasion, arrived in Louisiana with high expectations after some solid recent outings in testing with Juncos Racing. He used his experience to excellent effect by posting the fastest time in practice this morning and then securing the pole just a few hours later.
Pigot’s start was exemplary, too. Kaiser, who started third, remained glued to his teammate’s rear wing on the long drag race toward Turn One, but it was Pigot who turned into the corner in front. He never looked back.
After his efforts in qualifying had been hampered by some mechanical problems, Blackstock put those behind him with a magnificent charge from fifth on the grid to second at the exit of the first turn. He made a mistake midway around the first lap, losing touch with Pigot, but remained in second place for the remainder of the 18-lap race which was run under green conditions throughout. By the end, Pigot was more than 11 seconds in front.
After losing almost four seconds to Blackstock in the opening six laps, Kaiser stepped up his game dramatically. Under pressure from a charging Canadian Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport), who made an impressive Pro Mazda debut, Kaiser closed the gap to Blackstock to less than a second with two laps remaining. Blackstock, though, held on for second place and was shadowed across the line by both Kaiser and Grist.
Scott Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, also ran strongly on his Pro Mazda debut. Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion remained in touch with Grist to claim fifth ahead of the Team Pelfrey pair of Dalton Kellett, also from Canada, and Brazilian Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, who had started dead last in the 13-car field following some mechanical dramas in qualifying.
Michael Johnson (JDC MotorSports), from Flint, Mich., the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder, finished a solid eighth on his Pro Mazda debut, followed by Juncos Racing teammates Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, and Julia Ballario, from Marcos Juarez, Argentina.
Spencer Pigot, #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/VitaminPro App/California Scents/OMP (Juncos Racing): “It was a great race. I was able to get the lead off the start and I just put my head down and pulled away. The car was awesome. The Juncos guys did a great job and it couldn’t be a better first race with them. Thanks to Doug Mockett and Company, Rising Star Racing and all of my other sponsors. Hopefully, it is the start of a very good season.”
Three Races, Three Different Winners in Cooper Tires Winterfest for USF2000
Enerson and Toppe Score Breakthrough Maiden Victories at NOLA Motorsports Park
New Orleans, La., February 22 – American teenagers RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., and Clark Toppe, from The Woodlands, Texas, scored emphatic victories as the first three races of the Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda concluded today at NOLA Motorsports Park.
The 17-car field enjoyed cool, clear conditions today at the 16-turn, 2.75-mile road course situated just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans. They certainly proved to the liking of 16-year-old Enerson, who started from the pole in Round 2 and quickly established his superiority over an extremely competitive field.
His advantage grew to as much as three seconds by Lap 11, whereupon yesterday’s winner, Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) fully hit his stride and began to whittle away at the deficit. The gap was down to 1.4 seconds with just two laps remaining, but Franzoni’s hopes of being able to mount a serious challenge were dashed by a full-course caution after the erstwhile third-placed car of Danilo Estrela (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) ground to a halt on the backside of the race track.
Enerson was therefore assured of a well-deserved first victory both for himself and Team E Racing. Franzoni had to settle for second, while Estrela’s teammate, Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., completed the podium finishers.
Scott Andrews (JDC MotorSports, from Torquay, Victoria, Australia, finished a strong fourth to complete a fine comeback following a disappointing first race yesterday when he was involved in an accident on the first lap. Norway’s Henrik Furuseth (JAY Motorsports) and Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) ensured there were six different teams represented among the top six.
Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports) started from the pole for this afternoon’s final race by virtue of posting the fastest race lap in Race 2, whereupon a self confessed “lack of aggression” saw him relegated to seventh on the opening lap.
Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, continued his excellent form by running second in the early stages, only to make a mistake on Lap 6 which saw him off-course in Turn Six. Eidson, the winner of last year’s F1600 Championship Series, took over in second and held off a race-long challenge from Englishman Michael Epps (Belardi Auto Racing), who became the weekend’s sixth different podium finisher.
Andrews again ran fourth after a protracted battle with the recovering Telitz, who overtook Enerson on Lap 9 but was unable to find a way past Epps.
Enerson, who finished third in yesterday’s mini-series opener and sixth in Race 3, holds a slim six-point advantage, 70-64 over Eidson, with Franzoni, 61, Toppe, 58, and Furuseth, 56, also in close contention as the action moves on to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for three more races next Tuesday and Wednesday, February 25/26.
RC Enerson #7 Team E/Patriot Bank (Team E Racing) – Winner Race 2:
“The race was pretty much a flawless race. I started from pole, took the lead at the start and then there was a full course yellow. I was able to hold the lead on the restart, managed a gap and held it as long as I could. It went yellow at the end with around a lap to go and that is how it finished. My first win feels great and I want to hold onto this feeling.”
Clark Toppe #97 Toppe Motorsports/Red Line Oil (JDC MotorSports) – Winner 3:
“I couldn’t ask for a better day. The first race didn’t go that well and this race was perfect. I got out in front and led every lap. The car was great. JDC MotorSports gave me a great car. Thank you so much to my parents and everyone supporting me to be here. It is unbelievable and definitely feels great.”
Brazilian Franzoni Wins Cooper Tires Winterfest USF2000 Opener
New Orleans, La., Feburary 21 – Victor Franzoni might be small in stature at just 5′ 3″ but he certainly stood tall in this afternoon’s opening round of the six-race Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, taking a hard-fought victory for Afterburner Autosport at NOLA Motorsports Park. Norway’s Henrik Furuseth finished second for JAY Motorsports, while polesitter RC Enerson, from New Port Ritchey, Fla., completed the podium for Team E Racing.
The 18-year-old Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who has raced Formula Renault cars in Europe the past two years, started third in the 17-car field but vaulted into the lead shortly after a mid-race restart and remained out in front when the race was concluded under a second full-course caution.
Enerson posted the fastest lap in qualifying at 1:35.270, an average speed of 103.915 mph on the 2.75-mile road course, and jumped into the lead in confident style at the start. Danilo Estrela, making his debut with defending series champion team Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, made a move to the outside at Turn One but succeeded only in losing a couple of positions to Furuseth, who jumped from sixth on the grid to second, and Franzoni. Estrela settled into fourth ahead of Clarke Toppe (JDC MotorSports), who was showing vastly improved form over last year.
The yellow flags were flying even before the first lap had been completed, however, when Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports) spun at the exit of Turn One after being clipped inadvertently by Toppe. A close-following Scott Andrews (JDC MotorSports) also was caught up in the melee. Telitz was able to continue at the back of the field, but the unfortunate Australian was out on the spot.
The restart on Lap 6 saw Furuseth make an impressive move around the outside of Enerson to take the lead in Turn One. Moments later, Franzoni took advantage of Enerson’s lost momentum to snatch second place.
A slight mistake by Furuseth on the series of fast, sweeping corners on the back section of the race track on Lap 8 gave Franzoni the opportunity to make a move for the lead. He took it decisively. Next time around, the caution flags waved again after Telitz’s car, which had been damaged in the first-lap incident, suffered a suspension failure, pitching into the gravel at Turn 14.
Franzoni thus took the checkered flag ahead of Furuseth, Enerson, Estrela and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Jake Eidson, who had moved up nicely from 10th on the grid. Frenchman Nico Jamin finished sixth in his debut with Belardi Auto Racing, followed by teammate Michael Epps, from England, and Toppe, who had lost several positions at the restart. Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing) and Will Owen (Pabst Racing) completed the top 10.
Victor Franzoni, #17 E-qual/Vhero/Novac Sports (Afterburner Autosport):
“I’m really, really happy. It’s been three years since I won my last race (in Formula Future in Brazil), so it feels great to win again. I’m still learning the car but it feels really good. I think we made a good start to the season, so let’s see if we can keep it going.”