Californian Neil Alberico kept himself in the frame for this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by guiding his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entry to a comfortable victory in this morning’s Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.
Alberico’s fourth win of the season leaves him 29 points shy of series leader Santi Urrutia, who finished third today for Team Pelfrey, in the quest for a MAZDASPEED scholarship to move up one more rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.
Frenchman Timothé Buret finished second for Juncos Racing, catapulting him to third in the title chase ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Weiron Tan, who finished seventh. A total of 66 points will be available in the final two races of the 16-round season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on September 11-13.
For the second day in succession there was drama at the start. The drivers had been expressly warned after their conduct yesterday by Race Director Scot Elkins, so when polesitter Garett Grist accelerated before the green flag had been waved, the start was aborted and Grist’s Juncos Racing entry was sent to the back of the field.
Alberico, who had lined up second on the grid, took full advantage of the vacant pole position by leaping into the lead at the start. A series of fast laps established a gap over Buret, who had usurped Urrutia at the start, and thereafter Alberico cruised out to an advantage of 5.5 seconds before Cape Motorsports teammate Florian Latorre crashed out of sixth place in Turn 12 to ensure the 30-minute race would finish under caution.
Brazilian Victor Franzoni earned the Quartermaster Hard Charger Award, vaulting from ninth on the grid to fourth, equaling his best result in a partial season campaign for M1 Racing. The RePlay XD Move of the Race Award went to Grist, who also set the fastest lap of the race as he charged from 17th to ninth by the finish. Other contingency awards included the PFC Award to the winning car owners, Dominic and Nicholas Cape, and the Staubli Award to 11th-place finisher Alessandro Latif (World Speed Motorsports).
Latif’s teammate, Bobby Eberle, claimed the Expert class honors, for drivers over 30 years of age, from Bob Kaminsky (Kaminsky Racing), who endured some mechanical problems after being involved in an incident on the first lap. Eberle has now clinched the Expert Championship.
The Team Championship, along with top driver honors, will go down to the season finale, with Juncos Racing currently holding a 20-point advantage, 355-335, over Team Pelfrey. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing also remain in contention on 325 points.
Neil Alberico (#3 Rising Star Racing/Mobe-Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “Everyone is pushing hard, trying to get a win at the last few events of the season. But getting the win today does feel like instant redemption from yesterday. The Cape Motorsports guys gave me a great car today; we made a few little changes but nothing major. The track was very slippery being out early in the morning so you had to minimize your mistakes early until the track came in, but it got better and better as the race went on. It feels good having momentum going into my home race in Monterey. Points are a big deal but I can’t control what everyone else does. All I can do is try to win the last two races and whatever happens, happens.”