Alberico Clinches Cooper Tires USF2000 Winterfest in Style at Palm Beach
 February 10, 2013| 
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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/ & 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/ Trophies (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) – First/Champion:  “My goal was to run my own race, stay out front and, hopefully, keep it there. Scott [Hargrove] did a tremendous job all weekend. The first turn is not easy. He puts on a lot of pressure but fortunately for me, I didn’t make too many mistakes. I came out on top again and it feels great. In the race, we were working on consistency and those two yellow flags brought us real close together so I wasn’t able to work on pulling a gap the entire race. I put my head down in the opening lap and tried to keep it there to the end. To win five of six races feels pretty darn good. A big thanks to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, my dad and Dan Andersen and the series for putting on a really good Winterfest. I look forward to the beginning of the season in a few weeks.”

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.”

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