After the dominance that Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing displayed last season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, it’s really no surprise to see them dominate this year’s USF2000 Winterfest. The six-race mini-series that started with three races at the Sebring International Raceway last Tuesday and Wednesday, concluded this weekend with three races at the Palm Beach International Raceway. Californian Neil Alberico won all three of the races, followed immediately by his teammate Canadian Scott Hargrove in P2. That gave Alberico a strong lead headed to PBIR, and gave Cape Motorsports an all but insurmountable lead in the team championship.
USF2000 Winterfest Round 4
Alberico’s string of pole positions and wins came to an end on Saturday as Hargrove would win pole position in qualifying and then go on to lead every lap of the first race at PBIR, Round 4 of the 2013 Winterfest. This was Hargrove’s first win in USF2000.
“This is a phenomenal feeling. I just never looked back once I got up into the lead after the start. I knew Neil [Alberico] was right behind me and did my best to not look in the mirrors and kept trying to do as little mistakes as possible. The Cape team gave me a great car and it was fantastic to drive. I’m thrilled. My goal was to turn consistent lap times. I didn’t want to push too hard and drop a wheel because I knew Neil would be right there; it was that close. Consistent laps are what ended up winning me the race. I couldn’t be happier.” — Scott Hargrove, #38 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
The start of the race almost ended in disaster for the two Cape Motorsports hot shoes as one of their teammates, Jeroen Slaghekke, missed the turn-in for Turn 1 and rejoined the circuit abruptly and dangerously as the field made their way through the opening chicane. He missed Hargrove and Alberico, but ran full into Row 2 qualifiers Jesse Lazare and Stefan Rzadzinski, leaving an unavoidable mess for Florian Latorre and terminating the race for all four drivers. The messy incident triggered an extended full-course caution as the marshals worked at cleaning up the mess. Young drivers will make mistakes like this, it’s just part of the learning process, but it’s very unfortunate for those who were collected in the incident and left with a mountain of crash damage that resulted from no fault of their own. Once the race restarted, Hargrove and Alberico quickly gapped the field to have their own private fight. Although Alberico would keep in contact with Hargrove, he wasn’t able to pose a significant challenge to his teammate.
USF2000 Winterfest Rounds 5 and 6
Having set the fastest race lap in Round 4, Neil Alberico started from pole in Round 5 and again in Round 6. In both races, he and Scott Hargrove ran nose-to-tail several seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. Although Hargrove would press Alberico hard, especially in Round 6, Alberico would win both of the final races and secure the Winterfest title with a very comfortable 29 points over Hargrove.
“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.” — Neil Alberico, #2 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
With the display of dominance from Cape Motorsports’ two big guns, Alberico and Hargrove, they are easily the big favourites for the championship this year, as they were last year. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some great racing throughout the year. Garrett Grist of Andretti Autosport and Jesse Lazare of Pabst Racing Services were the only other two racers to finish in the top-5 during each of the three races at PBIR.
“It was another good week for the DaVinci Foods team. We keep learning things about car and I keep learning how to properly drive the car and adjust my driving style. We got a bit off track throughout the weekend and didn’t stay as quick as we started out, so we will take a look at things and how to keep the tires fresh. I am looking forward to going back to Sebring International Raceway. We had a lot of pace there and kept improving the whole week. I was the quickest in the final race, which was great. We will keep building on that because we have a great setup there and will challenge for the race win. The team will keep working towards the whole season. There is still a lot to learn and hopefully can get good setups for the car at each race we go to.” — Garrett Grist, #7 Andretti Autosport
Also showing competitive speed were James Fletcher of Cape Motorsports and Stefan Rzadzinski of JDC Motorsports. While the battle for the lead may more often than not be contested between Alberico and Hargrove, the fight for the last podium spot should be intense and fierce this year.