|Pigot (C) and Hargrove (R)|
The Allied Building Products Pro Mazda Oval Challenge at the Milwaukee Mile appropriately boiled down to a duel between Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title rivals Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove. On this occasion it was Pigot who emerged victorious with Juncos Racing's #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/Vitamin-D Pro App/California Scents entry. Pigot's sixth win from 12 races means he will carry an 18-point lead, 289-271, over Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) into the final two races at the Sonoma Raceway road course next weekend in California.
Hargrove and Pigot lost no time in battling through from their second row positions on the starting grid. Hargrove took the lead on Lap 3 from Team Pelfrey's Nicolas Costa and Mexican polesitter Jose Gutierrez (Juncos Racing), but Pigot was hot on his heels, and remained there for the first half of the 90-lap race. A full-course caution right around the midpoint gave Pigot the opportunity he was looking for, and he pounced at the restart, diving to the inside through Turns One and Two to grasp the lead. Pigot stretched his advantage to as much as 2.3 seconds before easing his pace slightly in the closing stages and allowing Hargrove to close to within 1.4 seconds with 10 laps remaining.
Then it was Hargrove's turn to grasp a lifeline as the caution lights flashed on one more time after Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport) found the wall in Turn Two. The cleanup allowed time for a four-lap dash to the finish. Hargrove made the better restart but Pigot stuck to his guns and maintained his advantage on the inside line, then stretched his lead to 1.2382 seconds at the finish line.
Costa held third for much of the race before slipping back to fifth after the first restart. Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) took over in third and briefly began to catch Hargrove before slipping back again toward the clutches of Hargrove's teammate, Neil Alberico.
The final restart set up an intense battle for third which saw Alberico and Kaiser make contact on the exit of Turn Two. Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), who had run as low as 10th in the early stages, took the opportunity to grasp the final podium position ahead of Alberico, Costa and Julia Ballario, who also mounted a late charge for Juncos Racing. The Argentinean lady ran 12th for much of the first half of the race but came alive at the end, earning the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after making up six positions in the race to finish sixth.
She also claimed the Staubli Award and the RePlay XD Move of the Race for her move on Ryan Booth (JDC MotorSports), which she completed on Lap 67 after the pair had run side-by-side for two complete laps of the 1.015-mile oval.
The PFC Award and customized Race Energy charger – the official battery of the ladder series – went to the winning team, Juncos Racing.
Spencer Pigot, #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/Vitamin-D Pro App/California Scents (Juncos Racing): "It was a great race. Scott [Hargrove] and I got past the front row really quickly and then I was just trying to find a way past Scott. He was fast and we were right there just waiting for him to make a mistake. Eventually I got a chance on a restart and was able to squeeze by. It was a lot of fun. The Juncos guys gave me a great car. The late restart was a bit hair-raising but, as always, hard racing with Scott but clean as well. I am happy to get the win and I am ready for Sonoma."