Canadian Hargrove Leads USF2000 Field to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
 September 5, 2013| 
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Los Gatos Racer Alberico Seeks His Sixth Win of the Season at Home Track

PALMETTO, Fla. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda heads west to California this weekend for the first time this season – and the first time since a pair of non-championship races were run in 2010 – with a 26-car field full of talented young chargers set to contest two races which will comprise the Allied Building Products Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The scenic and challenging 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course with its signature Corkscrew turn, situated just a few miles from Monterey on the central coast, will host pivotal rounds with the possibility of the champion’s crown being clinched this weekend while no fewer than 17 drivers will battle for a top-five standing in the final results.

USF2000 represents the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy which also includes the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Firestone Indy Lights. The winner of this year’s 14-race USF2000 title-chase will earn a scholarship package from Mazda and the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder to graduate into Pro Mazda for 2014.

Scott Hargrove, 18, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, currently leads the way after a consistent campaign that has so far netted three wins and four second-place finishes aboard the No. 38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing Van Diemen-Mazda fielded by Florida-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Hargrove holds a commanding 46-point advantage, 227-181, over 20-year-old teammate Neil Alberico, but with 30 points for a race win and additional points for the driver who sets the fastest time in qualifying, the fastest race lap and whoever leads most laps in the race, the outcome is far from being decided. Hargrove would need to amass a 66-point advantage at the end of the weekend to clinch the crown prior to the season finale at Houston.

“Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was where I drove a race car for the very first time back in 2010 with Skip Barber,” said Hargrove. “The USF2000 championship is coming down to the final two weekends, meaning there is no room for a mistake. I haven’t won a race since March and I expect that could change this weekend. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing has done an awesome job all year and we are all ready to step up our game and finish the year off strong!”

Alberico, from nearby Los Gatos, Calif., trailed by as many as 77 points at one stage and has some momentum – and home track advantage – on his side after winning five races so far this year in the No. 2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&M Trophy entry, including two of the last three at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in early August.

“I haven't actually raced at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before, although it was the first track I drove on at the Skip Barber Racing School back in 2007,” said Alberico. “So, I guess you could say it's been a long anticipated race weekend! The championship is still up for grabs, and personally I’m just going to focus session by session on having a flawless weekend.”

Adding Grist and Others to the Mix
Another driver with momentum on his side is Andretti Autosport’s Garett Grist in the #7 DaVinci Foods entry. The teenager from Grimsby, Ont., Canada claimed his first victory in the most recent race at Mid-Ohio to vault from fifth in the points to third (and best-placed of the rookie contenders), just 30 markers shy of Alberico. He also posted the fastest race lap in all three of the races at Mid-Ohio.

RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., also sprung to prominence at Mid-Ohio. A front-runner in last year’s National Class, Enerson, 16, claimed a career-best second in Round 8 for ZSports with Team E Racing in the #10 Team E/Patriot Bank entry, and added a third and a fourth to cement his credentials as a bona fide contender for victory.

Henrik Furuseth, who beat Enerson to the National Class championship in 2012, earning a scholarship prize to graduate into the Championship division this year, also performed well at Mid-Ohio. The 17-year-old from Oslo, Norway, atoned for a mid-pack performance in qualifying by finishing seventh, sixth and then fourth, equaling his previous best at Toronto, for PRL Motorsports. Furuseth (#96 Palfinger/Akrene Mek Verksted) currently lies seventh in the championship table, a mere 10 points out of fourth, and is strongly tipped to add his name to the list of 11 drivers – representing eight different teams – who have already earned podium finishes this year.

Estrela Looking for Redemption at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
In 2010, rising Brazilian talent Danilo Estrela impressed an accomplished group of judges by winning the annual Skip Barber Racing Karting Scholarship Shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. His prize was a season of racing in the Skip Barber Racing School Series in 2011. Estrela, now 20, has continued his upward path, scoring his first USF2000 win on the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, in July, but is looking to bounce back from a dismal weekend at Mid-Ohio when his #11 Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen-Mazda was involved in accidents in all three races.

Estrela slipped to fourth in the championship standings, behind Grist, and is now under pressure from 16-year-old Frenchman Florian Latorre (#91 13th Avenue/MASM-Cogny/Accent du Sud Ouest with JAY Motorsports), former sim racer Wyatt Gooden (#17 PerfectPedal.com with Afterburner Autosport) and Furuseth.


Fellow rookie and MAZDASPEED racer Peter Portante, who won last year’s Skip Barber Racing Karting Scholarship Shootout, held at Road Atlanta, is another youngster to watch. Portante, 17, from Plainville, Conn., has a pair of second-place finishes to his credit this season, driving for Indianapolis-based Belardi Auto Racing in the #41 Mazda/California Scents/Intercity Lines/Beurre & Sel/B&R Electrical Contractors machine.

National Class Battle
Multiple SCCA National Champion Scott Rettich (Alliance Autosport), from Camden, Ohio, has boasted a 100 percent win record so far this year in the National Class Presented by SCCA Enterprises, which features cost-effective Elan/Van Diemen chassis and Mazda engines complying to the SCCA Formula Enterprises regulations. However, he will miss this weekend’s rounds of competition leaving the door open for ArmsUp Motorsports’ James Dayson (#16 Dayhu Group of Companies/Me & Lewis Inc./Corrective Kinetics/Ener-C/Standard Trade) – currently second in the championship and 42 points in arrears – and Alliance Autosport teammate Ryan Verra (#25 Capto Scientia/Enemy Sport/Cancer Research Society), in third, to make up some ground.

Paralyzed Racer Johnson Recognized as a “Game Changer”
Michael Johnson, 20, of Flint, Mich., is the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy roster. Johnson was a standout motorcycle racer before sustaining life-threatening injuries in a crash when he was 14 years old, and refuses to be deterred from his goal of winning the Indianapolis 500.

Johnson, who began his comeback in karting and won races in the Skip Barber Series before graduating to USF2000, competes in a hand-controlled car for JDC MotorSports. His efforts over the last 18 months have been recognized by Mazda which has named him as one of the “Game Changers” featured in its national advertising and marketing campaign. Johnson pilots the #54 Universal Coating/SpeediCath/FlatOutNation.com/Red Line Oil entry.

Series Welcomes Three Newcomers
Matias Koykka, from Tuusula, Finland, will make his eagerly awaited USF2000 debut this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, driving a third Van Diemen-Mazda for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing (#3 Finnish Motorsport Academy/K-Citymarket Tammisto/Fatpipe and Finseula). Koykka, 18, impressively won the 2012 F1600 Championship Series with the same team and has recently clinched the North European Formula Ford Championship. 

Alexandre “Alex” Baron also will make his USF2000 debut this weekend with Afterburner Autosport (#18 13th Avenue). Born in France to English parents, Baron, 18, from Narbonne, France, won last year’s French F4 Championship and has been competing this year in the Formula Renault Eurocup.

Scott Andrews of Torquay, Victoria, Australia, will make his first appearance behind the wheel of the #93 Andrews Automotive/AMSF/JDC MotorSports entry. Andrews, 22, is a multiple race winner in Formula Ford 1600.

Drivers Join Mazda in Supporting SPCA of Monterey County
Mazda is once again supporting the SPCA Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center with a “Free Car with Every Adoption Weekend” featuring 1:43 scale model cars for every pet adoption. USF2000 drivers will take a tour of the shelter this Friday at 9:00 am PT, donate pet supplies and motorsports memorabilia and encourage fans attending the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race weekend to bring donation items for the shelter to the USF2000 hospitality facility and learn more about pet adoption.

Around Town
Hargrove will be participating in a Racing For Kids hospital visit at the Natividad Medical Center this Thursday at 10:00 am PT… Portante and Estrela will be making an appearance and signing autographs at the Monterey Public Library from 3:30 - 4:30 pm also on Thursday… Verra will be hosting media trackside on Saturday at 1:00 pm at the Alliance Autosport transporter to discuss his charity project “Driven to Research” in conjunction with the Cancer Research Society.

Follow the Action
The USF2000 contenders will commence their race weekend action with three test sessions on Friday, September 6, and another hour-long practice session at 8:00 am on Saturday. Qualifying will take place at 12:00 pm, and the green flag for the Allied Building Products Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Round 11 of the championship, will fly at 4:40 pm, immediately before Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying. 

Round 12 will commence at 8:10 am on Sunday, September 8. Live timing and scoring with commentary for all on-track sessions is available via the series website at www.usf2000.com.

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About Allied Building Products Corp.
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 33 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 www.alliedbuilding.com. 
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