Canadian Scott Hargrove strengthened his lead in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with a commanding victory in the Allied Building Products Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Since teammate and closest title rival Neil Alberico could manage no better than fourth place in today’s 12th round of the championship, Hargrove now holds a healthy 44-point advantage with only two races remaining at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 5-6.
Hargrove and Alberico also secured a second successive Team Championship for Florida-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing this weekend.
Hargrove started from the outside of the front row of the grid for the second day running, alongside yesterday’s debut race winner Alexandre “Alex” Baron (Afterburner Autosport), then took the lead on lap 2 when Baron made a mistake and ran off the road at the exit of Turn 6. Hargrove remained in control for the remainder of the race. His comfortable margin of almost three seconds over fellow Canadian Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport) was erased by a full-course caution after eight laps, when National class contender James Dayson crashed in Turn 4, but Hargrove held his nerve during a one-lap dash to the checkered flag to cement the victory his fourth of the season but first since St. Petersburg in March by 1.16 seconds.
“I love racing here at Mazda Raceway. The track is phenomenal, especially going through the Corkscrew in these cars,” said Hargrove. “We carry a lot of speed through there and it is a lot of fun.
“It was a good race. I feel great heading into Houston. I know the championship is mine to lose at this point and I need to just keep my head down.”
Baron, who holds dual English and French citizenship, held his pole advantage at the start over Hargrove, while Grist was able to make a move around fellow second row starter Alberico going into Turn 2. The top four quickly distanced themselves from the chasing pack which was led by ever-improving Canadian Daniel Burkett, who headed the five-car Belardi Auto Racing challenge.
Baron’s mistake on lap 2 dropped him to fourth position, where he remained until the final lap, when a late lunge to the inside under braking for the Corkscrew moved him to a podium finish. Alberico had to be content with fourth ahead of Burkett, who easily bettered his previous best finish of ninth.
Wyatt Gooden capped an excellent weekend for Afterburner Autosport by accelerating past Jason Wolfe (Pabst Racing Services) at the late restart to snare sixth place, while 16-year-old Frenchman Florian Latorre posted another strong drive for JAY Motorsports, sneaking past Wolfe on the final lap for seventh.
Australian newcomer Scott Andrews finished ninth for JDC MotorSports, narrowly ahead of Florida teenager RC Enerson, who climbed from 16th to 10th for ZSports with Team E Racing, and Norwegian Henrik Furuseth (PRL Racing), who claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award by surging from 18th on the grid to 11th.
Ryan Verra scored his second USF2000 National Class Presented by SCCA Enterprises victory in as many days to maintain the Alliance Autosport team’s 100 percent record in 2013.