Alberico Clinches Cooper Tires USF2000 Winterfest in Style at Palm BeachPress Release
Hargrove Keeps the Pressure on; Fine Podium for 15-year-old Jesse Lazare in Round 6
Jupiter, Fla. – Neil Alberico bounced back from his narrow defeat yesterday at the hands of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Scott Hargrove to add two more victories today to his three wins at Sebring earlier in the week and clinch the Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship in the best possible manner.
Alberico, 20, from Los Gatos, Calif., led every inch of today’s pair of 21-lap races at the 2.034-mile Palm Beach International Speedway aboard the #2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School of High Performance Driving/eFormulaCarNews.com/J & M Trophies Van Diemen-Mazda but never had any breathing room as 18-year-old Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, kept the pressure on throughout both 30-minute contests.
Hargrove (#38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing) made a couple of concerted attempts to wrest away Alberico’s advantage following the first of two full-course cautions in Round 6, only for his advances to be rebuffed each time.
Dutchman Jeroen Slaghekke, from The Hague, looked like he had overcome a week of misfortunes aboard a third Wayne Taylor with Cape Motorsports Van Diemen-Mazda, qualifying and running third in the opening stages, only to make a mistake and run wide in Turn Eight on the ninth lap. The resulting loss of momentum dropped him all the way to ninth, whereupon he picked up a black-flag penalty for impeding another car and fell to 13th.
Jesse Lazare, 15, from Dollard des Ormeaux, Que., Canada, drove an impressive race in Round 6 to finish a strong third for the Pabst Racing Services team. Lazare had shown his paces on Saturday, qualifying third for the opening race, but was eliminated from contention in a crash on the opening lap. He bounced back well this morning, rising from 13th to sixth, passing teammate Jason Wolfe on the final lap, then continued his progress in the final round.
He started eighth, made up one place on the opening lap, passed Canadian Garett Grist (#7 DaVinci Foods/Andretti Autosport), Frenchman Florian Latorre (#91 JAY Motorsports) and Englishman James Fletcher (#3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) on Lap 9, then took advantage of Slaghekke’s error to move all the way to third, which he maintained to the finish.
Fletcher, who had finished on the podium in Round 5, placed fourth in the final race ahead of Grist and Stefan Rzadzinski (#93 Can Torque/Christenson Developments-JDC MotorSports).
Latorre also made excellent progress, running as high as fourth before tangling with Fletcher at Turn 10 and falling all the way to 13th. He stormed back to seventh at the finish, passing Peter Portante (#11 Belardi Auto Racing) with three laps remaining.
Alberico claimed the Cooper Tires Winterfest title by a margin of 186 points to the 157 of Hargrove and 107 of Fletcher. Grist (102), Rzadzinski (87) and Lazare (84) rounded out the top six.
The regular season for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will commence at Sebring International Raceway, in support of the 61st Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh From Florida endurance racing classic, on March 14-15.
Neil Alberico, #2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School of High Performance Driving/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&
Scott Hargrove, #38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) – Second in Race/Second in Championship: “I hope this championship represents how the rest of the year is going to go. Finishing on the podium in every race is just a fantastic result and I can’t thank the Cape team enough. They gave me an awesome car. Neil [Alberico] just handles the pressure; it doesn’t even bother him so I’ll have to find a way past him. It is a good start to the year.”
James Fletcher, #3 (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) Fourth in Race/Third in Championship: “Winterfest was a great experience. I learned loads and loads and this past week has been crammed with more racing than I have ever done in the UK in that amount of time. I am still learning the car and we were struggling here a little bit on the pace but we managed to keep a gap, take home some podiums and finish third in the Winterfest. I am really, really happy and I hope the start of the season goes as well.”
Jesse Lazare, #21 (Pabst Racing Services) – Third in Race 3: “The first race was a disappointment but we decided we were going to work for the future and keep improving. That is what we have done so I am very happy. I have been with a lot of teams and Pabst is the best I have been with. I really want to thank them a lot, also my dad and the whole series. This is a great organization and I am enjoying it a lot.”
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Star Mazda Championship. The series also is part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder program which assists young drivers in advancing from the Skip Barber Racing School to USF2000. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com.
About Mazda: Mazda is the number-one brand for road-racers across North America. Thousands of Mazda powered grassroots racers compete in various classes with the SCCA and NASA highlighted by Spec Miata, the world’s largest spec class with over 2,500 cars built. In 2006 Mazda established the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder to assist racers in moving up through the ranks. In 2010 this was expanded to include the Mazda Road to Indy. Key to Mazda’s success is strategic partnerships with the Skip Barber Racing School and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports is managed by Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). MNAO is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City. Consumer information can be found at www.mazdausa.com with press information at www.mazdausamedia.com. Racers and fans can follow the action on Facebook (Mazdaspeed Motorsports).
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (NYSE: CTB) is a global company with affiliates, subsidiaries and joint ventures that specialize in the design, manufacture, marketing and sales of passenger car and light truck tires. The company also has subsidiaries that specialize in medium truck, motorcycle and racing tires. With headquarters in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper Tire has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities within its family of companies located in 11 countries around the world. Additional information can be found at www.us.coopertire.com.
Source: USF2000, Press Release
Article Tags: Cooper Tires Winterfest, IndyCar, Mazda, Mazda Road to Indy, Neil Alberico, Palm Beach International Raceway, Scott Hargrove