Alberico perseveres through another challenging weekend at Highlands Park

Alberico perseveres through another challenging weekend at Highlands Park

Team USA Scholarship

Alberico perseveres through another challenging weekend at Highlands Park

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A pair of top-10 finishes certainly wasn’t what Neil Alberico had in mind when the intensely competitive Toyota Racing Series visited Highlands Motorsport Park this weekend. After digging a huge hole for himself due to a mistake early in qualifying on Saturday, however, it was significantly better than the majority of potential alternatives.

The accident ensured Alberico, 21, from Los Gatos, Calif., would start dead last on the 22-car field for both the opening race of the weekend and the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy feature event. Undeterred, Alberico battled his way to 10th on Saturday to ensure a fifth-row starting position for Race 2 on Sunday morning.

Overnight rain and a light shower midway through the second 15-lap race ensured a series of incidents, and unfortunately Alberico found himself involved in one of them when he inadvertently tangled with young Australian Macauley Jones at the hairpin on lap 12. Both were out on the spot.

The track remained wet for the feature race. Alberico’s Victory Motor Racing team had worked hard to repair the Team USA Scholarship car, only for Alberico’s predicament to go from bad to worse on the pace lap when a faulty coil caused the engine to lapse onto three cylinders.

“During the pace lap I turned off the ignition hoping it would reset the electronics,” he related. “Unfortunately, that didn’t work, so I started the race on three cylinders. Every second I was on the radio with the team trying different things. Still no go. I was two corners away from coming into the pits on Lap 2 when it started running again. Thank goodness! At that point I had fallen away a bit but a Safety Car brought us together again and I was back in the race.”

Resuming 17th for the restart, Alberico quickly fought his way to 11th. He took advantage of a couple of incidents, passed rapid teammate Brendon Leitch, and reduced a deficit of more than five seconds to Michael Scott to less than a car length when the checkered flag was displayed one lap sooner than anticipated. Eighth place was his reward.

“Considering we were forced to start last in two of three races, I think the Victory Racing  boys did a great job to bounce back and score two solid results at the end of the weekend,” said Alberico. “We just need to continue to work hard and build on this momentum going into the next round at Hampton Downs.”

The series now travels to the North Island for the final two race weekends, but Alberico’s thoughts also are focused on 1995 Team USA Scholarship winner Memo Gidley, who was injured in a terrifying crash during the Rolex 24 at Daytona: “It’s tough seeing anyone get hurt in our sport. My thoughts and prayers are with Memo and his family.”

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