[Source: Pro Mazda/USF2000 press releases]
Hargrove Wins, Pigot Clinches the Cooper Tires Winterfest for Pro Mazda
Leeds, Ala. – Scott Hargrove and his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team continued their impressive Pro Mazda learning curve by scoring a fine victory this afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park in only their fourth start. Hargrove, 19, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, slipped past pole-sitter Spencer Pigot into Turn One and led the remainder of the 20-lap race, albeit not by much as Pigot remained within a few car lengths to secure the Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires crown and team championship honors for Juncos Racing.
The 16-car field was tightly packed as the cars accelerated across the line for the rolling start, and while Pigot had earned the right to set the pace by virtue of securing pole position yesterday, he was unable to maintain that advantage through Turn One. Hargrove, who won last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, timed his start to perfection and remained side-by-side with Pigot through Turn One which gave him the preferred inside line – and the lead – entering Turn Two.
Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., pushed as hard as he could, posting a new record fastest race lap of 1:20.411, but never was able to find a way past his Canadian rival. Instead he had to be content with his fourth top-two finish in as many races and an ultimately comfortable points margin in the four-race Cooper Tires Winterfest.
Rookie Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, maintained his streak of top-four finishes for Andretti Autosport – highlighted by a fine victory last Saturday at NOLA Motorsports Park – but it wasn’t quite enough to prevent fellow Canadian Hargrove from snatching second in the Winterfest standings by a scant one-point margin.
Grist, who started fourth today, lost a position to teammate Shelby Blackstock on Lap 4 and ran fifth for much of the race. On Lap 16, however, he profited when Blackstock was ushered onto the grass at the exit of Turn 16 by Brazilian ex-Formula 3 racer Pipo Derani (Team Pelfrey), who had made another of his trademark good starts, rising from sixth to third on the opening lap. Blackstock fell to seventh before he was able to regain the blacktop, but moved up to sixth when Derani was assessed a drive-through penalty for his over-aggressive defense of third place.
Neil Alberico also was part of this train of cars, claiming his second top-five finish of the weekend ahead of the recovering Blackstock.
Teenaged Mexican Jose Gutierrez (Juncos Racing) overtook Brandon Newey (Team Pelfrey) and then turned a series of fast laps in the closing stages to finish seventh ahead of Newey and Michael Johnson, who produced a stunning effort for JDC MotorSports by rising from 13th on the opening lap to ninth. Johnson, 21, from Flint, Mich., has been paralyzed from the chest down since a motorcycle racing accident in 2005. Johnson also posted the fourth fastest lap of the race.
The “regular season” for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will commence on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 29/30 in support of the IndyCar Series.
Spencer Pigot #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/Vitamin-DPro App/California Scents/OMP (Juncos Racing): “The Cooper Tires Winterfest has been great. I worked really well with the team and they did an awesome job all week. We won two races, were fastest every session on track and took every pole position so we can’t be disappointed with that. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and keep the car up at the front in the main season. We will still be working hard to improve as we head into St. Petersburg, but I can’t thank them enough for all of their hard work this week.”
Scott Hargrove #3 MAZDASPEED/Analytic Systems/RaceEnergy/Metal Action Machining (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “The race went really well. I made a great start against Spencer and he and I were side by side into Turn One and I was just able to hold on through the outside. From then on, I was able to click off laps. He made a bit of a mistake earlier on and fell back a bit but then caught his way right back up and kept the pressure going. With Spencer being right there, I really had to push for all I had and that’s what it took to win today. Our Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car is getting a lot better and to win a race this early is phenomenal. I can’t believe that we are already at this stage so early in the program. I am so thankful to Mazda and everything that they have done to give me the opportunity to race with these guys and hopefully we can continue to build on this momentum in the regular season.”
Pigot Takes Control of Cooper Tires Winterfest Pro Mazda Round 3 at Barber
Leeds, Ala. – Spencer Pigot might have relinquished his advantage in Round 2 of the Cooper Tires Winterfest for Pro Mazda at NOLA Motorsports Park last Saturday, but he well and truly made amends this afternoon when the four-race mini-series reconvened for the first of two more races at the scenic and challenging Barber Motorsports Park.
Pigot once again set the pace in morning practice, then cemented his authority by claiming his third consecutive pole position for Juncos Racing. Pigot’s best lap in qualifying, 1:20.249, was comfortably quicker than the existing track record of 1:21.166 set in 2011 by Tristan Vautier – a testament both to Pigot’s speed and the effectiveness of the latest breed of Cooper tires.
The 20-year-old from Orlando, Fla., made no mistake this time at the start, vaulting into an immediate lead which he never looked likely to relinquish. Pigot posted the fastest lap of the race, 1:20.657, on Lap 6 en route to a comfortable 8.062-second victory over Scott Hargrove.
Hargrove, the winner of last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, showed both he and his team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, are fast learners by finishing second in just their third race since stepping up together into Pro Mazda. The 19-year-old Canadian had started third but moved around the outside of front row qualifier Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) at the first corner and remained there throughout the 20-lap race.
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) benefited from Blackstock’s loss of momentum and was able to grasp third going into Turn Two, but only briefly as Blackstock’s attempt to redress the situation at Turn Five resulted in a collision between the pair. The unfortunate Kaiser rejoined at the back of the 16-car field before fighting his way to an unrepresentative 12th at the checkered flag.
Brazilian Pipo Derani (Team Pelfrey) followed up his strong run in Race 2 at NOLA by slipping past last Saturday’s race winner, Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport) at Turn One. He then took advantage of the Kaiser/Blackstock incident to move up to third, where he stayed despite intense race-long pressure from Grist.
Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), from Los Gatos, Calif., finished fifth, making steady progress after suffering a clogged fuel filter on the opening day at NOLA and managing to hold off the recovering Blackstock.
Mexican Jose Gutierrez finished seventh in a third Juncos Racing entry, followed by Kyle Connery who enjoyed an impressive run with JDC MotorSports after skipping the two races in New Orleans due to budgetary constraints. The Team Pelfrey pair of Brandon Newey, on his Pro Mazda debut, and Dalton Kellett completed the top 10.
Pigot now holds a commanding 23-point advantage, 92-69 over Grist, entering tomorrow’s final round which is scheduled to start at 2:50 pm CT.
Spencer Pigot #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/VitaminPro App/California Scents/OMP (Juncos Racing): “What a great race. I was able to keep the lead at the start and just tried to put together a good first few laps and an initial gap. I saw Scott [Hargrove] behind me and he was pretty close for the first few laps but after that I just settled into a rhythm. The car was fantastic. I can’t thank Juncos Racing enough. They have been improving the car every time we have been on track. It was great this afternoon and hopefully we can repeat again tomorrow.”
Next: Wrap-up of USF2000 rounds 4-6