Thirty-Car Field Set to Roll This Weekend
PALMETTO, Fla. – Following its traditional break in the schedule, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda returns in high gear this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products to kick off the second half of the season which features nine races in just seven weeks. A strong 30-car field is set for the pair of races in support of both the IZOD IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series.
The picturesque and fan-friendly 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course located in Lexington, Ohio – where reserved grandstand seats and motorhome camping spaces have sold out – is a key event in the tightly-contested Championship and National Class points battles. As the first step on INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy – a clearly defined scholarship program leading to the IZOD IndyCar Series – drivers in the Championship Class are competing for a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the 2013 Star Mazda Championship. Drivers in the National Class, a cost-effective alternate program which features slightly less powerful cars, are vying for a scholarship package to advance to the Championship Class in 2013.
“Mid-Ohio is always a fantastic event for our series,” said Dan Andersen, President and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “Not only does the track lead to some fantastic racing for our competitors as we have witnessed the past few years, our drivers are exposed to both the INDYCAR and ALMS communities and all the fans that come out to support this exciting weekend of racing. These are two key races in the point standings and it will be interesting to see how things shake out.” Championship Class Front-Runners
Spencer Pigot, 18, of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing leads the Championship Class standings. Pigot, who finished second in last year’s USF2000 championship, has been on a charge claiming four wins and a third-place finish in the last five rounds.
“I can't wait to get back to racing this weekend,” said Pigot (#2 Team Pelfrey/Doug Mockett & Company/E-merging Technologies/Parathyroid.com/California Scents). “Mid-Ohio is one of my favorite tracks and we were fastest there at the series test back in May so I'm confident we will be fighting at the front. It's been a while since our last race and I'm sure everyone has been testing to improve. I think the second half of the year will be tougher than the first but I'm excited to get it started.”
The Orlando, Fla., driver’s consistency, however, has been matched by teammate Matthew Brabham, whose father, Geoff, a champion in the sports car ranks, has visited victory lane at Mid-Ohio on more than one occasion. Brabham, 18, from Manalapan, Fla., trails Pigot by only six points resulting from one win and four second-place finishes as well as bonus points for setting the fastest race lap in all five events and claiming three pole positions in the #83 DTE Group Van Diemen.
Belardi Auto Racing’s Roman Lagudi is 38 points in arrears but still within striking distance. Lagudi, 18, of Sydney, Australia, who now resides in Las Vegas, has five top-five finishes to his credit including four podiums aboard the #4 Champion Stone/Tool and Supply/High Performance Distributors entry. National Class Numbers
The National Class is enjoying a heated battle at the top with three different winners in the first four events and a mere four points separating the top four. [National Class cars were not eligible to compete in Round 5 at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval.] Camden, Ohio’s Scott Rettich with Columbus-based Alliance Autosport currently leads after three podiums and a fourth-place drive with the #71 PDI Communication Systems/Springboro Car Wash entry.
"I am very excited to continue our championship campaign at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course,” said Rettich. “Mid-Ohio is both Alliance Autosport and my home track, so we are anxious to perform strong in front of all our fans and supporters. The fight for top honors in the National Class so far has been very tight, but I hope that our home track advantage will lead us to a pair of wins!"
Robinson Motor Sports’ Mark Eaton (#92 Deathtolionfish.org/Valvoline) lies in second after a win and two second-place finishes. The only repeat race winner in the class, RC Enerson of ZSports Midwest with Team E Racing (#10 Patriot Bank/Team E) holds down third with Henrik Furuseth of Cape Motorsports (#32 Palfinger/Akrene Mek Verksted) rounding out the top four after two podium drives including a win. Mid-Ohio Home Event for Five Drivers
In addition to Scott Rettich, Mid-Ohio is a home event for several USF2000 drivers including the JAY Motorsports trio of Jim Libecco of Cleveland (#98 Akron Skin Center/ www.akronskin.com), Patrick Gallagher of Thornville (#91 CTL Engineering/ProMotion Driver Development) and Jason Wolfe of Mount Vernon (#23 Wolfe Trucking Inc./JAY Motorsports/ ProMotion Driver Development), as well as Pabst Racing Services' Shannon McIntosh of Miamisburg (#18 TrueCar/Virgin/American Traveler Motor Club/Fusion1560/Arai/Alpinestars/ TAG Heuer). USF2000 Drivers Named Candidates for Team USA Scholarship Selections
Four USF2000 drivers have been tabbed as candidates for prestigious Team USA Scholarships which, since 1990, have provided opportunities for young American race car drivers to display their talents on an international stage early in their careers.
Vying for three fully funded rides in England later this season are Neil Alberico, 19, from Redlands, Calif. (#19 Kartel Motorsports/Bondurant School/RaceLite Protection/Red Line Oil with JDC MotorSports), Luigi Biangardi, 16, from Chicago, Ill. (#15 Inject-it/Gulfstream Properties/ Slick Locks/Chicago Indoor Racing with ArmsUp Motorsports), Matthew Brabham and Colin Thompson, 18, from Perkasie, Pa. (#11 The Thompson Organization/AWE Tuning/Sparco of Belardi Auto Racing), who won an F1600 race at Mid-Ohio this past weekend.
The quartet will join 10 more aspiring drivers for interview sessions at Mid-Ohio on Friday evening in front of an impressive panel of judges including INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, American Le Mans Series President Scott Atherton, Director of Motorsports at Mazda North American Operations John Doonan and Cooper Tires Director of Motorsports Chris Pantani as well as former scholarship winners Bryan Herta, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Bryan Sellers and Joey Hand. Drivers to Watch
While Pigot and Brabham set the pace at the series’ two-day at Mid-Ohio, several other drivers displayed noteworthy form. Those include Andretti Autosport’s Shelby Blackstock (#8 Starstruck), Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Trent Hindman (#3 Premier Woodcraft/Zydro+/ DFL Construction/Race Lite Protection/Skip Barber Racing School) and Belardi Auto Racing’s Scott Anderson (#14 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/ Neuropathy Testing Center/Laser Nail Centers). Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Mid-Ohio Schedule
USF2000 will have a prime schedule at Mid-Ohio. Race #1 will take place on Saturday at 4:15 pm ET, just after the American Le Mans Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge. On Sunday, the green flag for Race #2 will wave at 11:10 am, immediately prior to the start of the Honda Indy 200. Qualifying will take place on Saturday at 10:10 am in advance of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying at 11:00 am.
In addition to two test sessions on Thursday (9:30 am and 2:15 pm) and two practice sessions on Friday (8:00 am and 3:45 pm), USF2000 drivers will take part in a variety of activities at the INDYCAR Fan Village over the weekend including an autograph session on Saturday (12:30 pm) and various Q&A sessions at the Fan Village Stage. USF2000 Fast Facts
• Spencer Pigot has made the most of ladder system opportunities and is gunning to continue that streak this year. After winning the 2009 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship, Pigot earned a fully funded ride in the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Series presented by Mazda as an Official MAZDASPEED Development Driver. He claimed that championship the following year, earning a scholarship to contest the USF2000 Series. If he wins this year’s title, he will receive a scholarship to move up to the 2013 Star Mazda Championship.
• Michael Johnson, 19, of Flint, Mich. is the first paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy. Utilizing hand controls, Johnson drives the #54 SpeediCath/Coloplast/Universal Coating/FlatOutNation.com/Red Line Oil/Movement Arts Motorsports Marketing entry for JDC MotorSports. In partnership with sponsor Coloplast North America, Johnson has been sharing his inspirational story with patients at rehabilitation centers.
• The lone female racer in the field, Shannon McIntosh was born in Miamisburg and began racing throughout the central Ohio region at age 5. She amassed over 100 victories in Midget racing before setting her sights on road racing and entering the USF2000 Series last year. McIntosh is part of the TrueCar Racing “Women Empowered” initiative created to support top female race car drivers in premier racing series along with rising talent in developmental series. TrueCar Racing recently announced a partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
• USF2000 Alumni include INDYCAR President of Competition Beaux Barfield, Dario Franchitti’s race engineer Chris Simmons and IZOD IndyCar Series drivers JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball, who claimed his first career podium with a second-place finish in Toronto this month. Other drivers to hone their skills in the series include the late Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish, Jr.
About Allied Building Products: Allied Building Products has been a partner of Andersen Racing since 2008, entertaining hundreds of Allied employees, customers and guests over the years. After serving as presenting sponsor for one double-header round of USF2000 competition (operated by Andersen Promotions) in 2011, Allied will expand its role to three events this season – the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (March 24-25), the Mid-Ohio Grand Prix (August 4-5) and the Baltimore Grand Prix (September 1-2). Allied’s guests will serve as trophy presenters and honorary starters for all six races and will host dinners with select USF2000 drivers.
Allied Building Products Corp. is a wholesale distributor of exterior and interior building materials with $1.7 billion in annual revenues. Allied services professional contractors in 30 states with residential and commercial roofing, waterproofing, siding, windows, drywall, acoustical, metal framing and solar products along with all related accessories. Allied is a division of Oldcastle, Inc., the North American holding company for CRH plc (NYSE: CRH). For more information about Allied Building Products, visit http://www.alliedbuilding.com/.