Hargrove Edges Pigot In Pro Mazda
Hargrove, 19, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, slipped past polesitter 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.
“The race went really well,” Hargrove said. “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.”
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, Ontario, maintained his streak of top-four finishes for Andretti Autosport — highlighted by a 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 four 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.
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.