Full 30-Car USF2000 Field Set for Triple-Header Weekend at Mid-Ohio
 July 31, 2013| 
  • Series News
Recent Wins for Alberico, Estrela Nibble Away at Hargrove’s Points Lead

PALMETTO, Fla. – Victories in the two most recent races on the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada have enabled preseason favorite Neil Alberico and rapidly emerging Brazilian Danilo Estrela to place just a little bit of pressure on Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda points leader Scott Hargrove. The 19-year-old from Vancouver, B.C., Canada still holds a healthy 37-point advantage after winning three of the first four races of the season, but this weekend’s triple-header at the undulating and challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, could turn out to be pivotal as the 14-round campaign reaches toward its climax.

Hargrove drove impressively in Toronto to overcome an early incident in the first of two races. He fell as low as 25th when he pitted for repairs to his Van Diemen-Mazda following an on-track incident, but sterling work by his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing crew and then a spirited comeback allowed him to salvage useful points with a 15th-place finish. He bounced back even stronger in Race Two, posting the fastest lap of the race en route to second place.

Fellow USF2000 sophomore and teammate Alberico began 2013 in sensational style, winning five of the six races that comprised the preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series. Since then he has been on a roller-coaster ride. Alberico, 20, from Los Gatos, Calif., has won three times but has been sidelined by incidents or mechanical misfortunes in three of the remaining four races. Two recent wins and a fine effort in Round 7 at Toronto, where he led much of the race before being shuffled down to fifth in the hectic closing stages, have enabled him to climb up to third in points at the halfway stage.

“Mid-Ohio is one of my favorite road courses in the U.S.," said Alberico, who set the fastest time during a two-day USF2000 test at Mid-Ohio in May. “The entire team has been working hard this past week to make sure we all perform at our best come race day. This will be a very important race weekend for all of us.”

Estrela, too, has been consistently quick. The former Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Scholarship winner began his rookie campaign with two podium finishes at Sebring, Fla., and added another third-place result in Race One at Toronto before finally breaking through to claim his maiden series victory for Belardi Auto Racing in Race Two on the Toronto streets.

Another driver to watch is Frenchman Florian Latorre, 16, who enjoyed a breakthrough weekend in Toronto, finishing second and third for the JAY Motorsports team and is now fourth in the standings.

Impressive Equality and Diversity Highlights USF2000 Field
A full field of 30 USF2000 contenders are expected to battle for honors on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile, natural terrain road circuit. A total of nine different drivers have secured podium finishes from the opening seven rounds of the season and, remarkably, eight different teams are represented among the top nine drivers in the points table at the halfway point in the season.

The entry list boasts drivers from seven different nationalities, including 14 Americans – from no fewer than 11 different states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin). Canadians are the next most numerous with eight, representing five Provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec), along with drivers as far afield as Brazil, England, France, the Netherlands and Norway.

Ohio Drivers Seeking Local Success
Three drivers on the entry list hail from Ohio. All of them are expected to challenge for honors on their home track.

Wyatt Gooden, from Cleveland, belied his rookie status by recording two second-place finishes on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., vaulting to second place in the standings for the fast-emerging Afterburner Autosport team which is taking part in only its second season of USF2000 competition. Gooden, a successful “gamer” who gained his start in the sport by winning a scholarship from simulation experts iRacing, sprung to prominence two years ago by winning the first two open-wheel races of his career at Mid-Ohio in an F1600 single-seater.

Second-year driver Jason Wolfe, from Mount Vernon, Ohio, has developed into a regular top-10 contender this season for the Pabst Racing Services team, although he will be looking to rebound from a difficult weekend in Canada where he was involved in two separate incidents and failed to finish either race.

Multiple SCCA National Champion Scott Rettich, from Camden, Ohio, will be looking to maintain his Alliance Autosport team’s unbeaten run of success 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. 

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 injuries during a race 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 revolutionary hand-controlled car for JDC MotorSports. His efforts over the last 18 months have now been recognized by Mazda which has named him as one of the “Game Changers” featured in its national advertising and marketing campaign.

The year-long campaign will showcase various historical figures that have developed a new way to excel at their respective disciplines. Through courage, creativity and conviction, these individuals have defied convention and changed the “game” in which they “played”. 

Of Note
Austin Cindric, at age 14 the youngest driver in the field, was born in Columbus, Ohio, and is now a resident of Mooresville, N.C. His father, Tim, is president of Penske Racing while his mother, Megan, is the youngest daughter of Jim and Barbara Trueman who guided the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course through its glory years.... Luca Forgeois, 18, from New York, N.Y., will be making a welcome return to the series after enduring a difficult start to the season and missing the last three races. The 2011 National Class champion will drive a third Andretti Autosport entry alongside Cindric and Canadian Garett Grist, who already has two podium finishes to his credit this year... Another Canadian rookie, Jesse Lazare (Pabst Racing Services), 16, from Montreal, Que., posted the second fastest time during the mid-season test at Mid-Ohio. His best finish to date has been a third at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Follow the Action
The USF2000 contenders will commence their race weekend action with a pair of test sessions on Thursday, August 1, and another practice session at 9:30 on Friday morning, followed by qualifying at 12:45 pm. Two 30-minute races will be held on Saturday, starting at 8:35 am and 3:25 pm. The green flag for Race Three will fall at 9:10 on Sunday, August 4. Live timing and scoring for all on-track sessions can be seen via the series website at www.usf2000.com.
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