Florida Driver Pigot Seeks to Continue his Winning Ways in St. Petersburg
The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will kick off its 2014 season with a pair of races this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. A stellar 20-car lineup will contest the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, headed by Orlando's Spencer Pigot, a rising star of American motorsports who took the recent four-race Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series by storm with two victories and four pole positions.
For the second year in a row, Allied Building Products returns as title sponsor of the doubleheader which will further challenge its competitors with standing starts. After serving as presenting sponsor for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at several races the past three years, Allied extended its support to select Pro Mazda races beginning in 2013. Allied's guests serve as trophy presenters and honorary starters, in addition to trackside entertaining and dinners with series drivers.
Pro Mazda represents the middle step on the Mazda Road to Indy, one of the most successful driver development programs in the world which provides a unique, scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000 and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Every level will be in action this weekend, headed by the Verizon IndyCar Series' season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Pigot, 20, marked himself as a potential star of the future by becoming the most successful driver in USF2000 history, winning no fewer than 18 races during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. His rookie Pro Mazda campaign in 2013 did not go as planned, with a solitary victory, but his renewed association with Juncos Racing, with whom he raced during his formative years in karting, has brought his name back into the limelight. Pigot also has a history of success on the challenging 1.8-mile, 14-turn downtown street circuit where he has claimed three USF2000 victories.
"I'm very excited to be coming back to St. Pete to start the season," said Pigot, who will drive the No. 7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/Vitamin-DPro App/California Scents entry. "We had a lot of success in the Winterfest so we're expecting to be strong again this weekend. It's a difficult track, so being consistent and not making any mistakes will be the key to winning."
Pigot knows all too well that he will face plenty of stiff opposition. He was very much the man to beat during the Winterfest, fastest in every session, but he had to play second fiddle in the final race at Barber Motorsports Park to last year's USF2000 champion, Scott Hargrove. The 19-year-old Canadian secured a MAZDASPEED scholarship as his prize for winning the championship, and has chosen to graduate into Pro Mazda along with his St. Petersburg-based team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. They proved to be fast learners.
"This weekend has had so much build up with the Capes moving up to Pro Mazda," noted Hargrove, who will drive the #38 MAZDASPEED/Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action Machining entry. "We have all invested so much into this program and I can't wait to see where we stack up. St. Petersburg is one of my favorite street circuits. It's relatively smooth as far as street circuits go and it has a handful of unique features. This will be my third year racing at St Pete and I think that little bit more experience can help in a racing situation.
"Winning the USF2000 Championship last year is what has allowed me to be racing today," he continued. "The Mazda Road to Indy is a tremendous program, and I'm excited to be representing such a great company this year."
Potential front-runners also will include series veterans Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., who won once last year during his rookie campaign with Andretti Autosport, and Brazilian Nicolas Costa (M1 Racing), who claimed four podium finishes in a limited season, and at least a handful of series rookies.
Among them are Blackstock's teammate Garett Grist, a race winner last year in USF2000 who won one of the Winterfest races at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana; Hargrove's American teammate Neil Alberico, who won more races than anyone else last season (six) in USF2000; Brazilian Pipo Derani (Team Pelfrey), who is making the move to North America after competing successfully in Europe for the past five years; Ryan Booth, from Charleston, S.C., who finished a close second in last year's IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship and will be making his Pro Mazda debut this weekend with JDC MotorSports; plus teammates Kyle Connery, from Vero Beach, Fla., and the remarkable Michael Johnson, 21, from Flint, Mich., the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy trail who posted the fourth fastest lap of the race in the final Winterfest event at Barber Motorsports Park.
The Pro Mazda field will have a pair of 30-minute practice sessions on Friday, March 28, at 8:35 am ET and 3:35 pm, followed by qualifying at 11:45 am on Saturday. Race 1 will start later that afternoon at 5:35 pm, with Race 2 on Sunday morning at 10:30 am. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available at www.promazdachampionship.com. Go behind-the-scenes with all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy at RoadToIndy.TV.