Pro Mazda – Can Pigot Get His Groove Back at Houston?

The first four races of the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship, two at St. Pete and two at Barber, saw Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot dominate the rest of the field. In those first four races, Spencer won two poles, and in all four races set the fastest race lap, lead the most laps, and was first to take the checkers. That all changed when the Pro Mazda Championship came to Indianapolis for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

It all went wrong for Spencer on the exit of Turn 1 on Lap 1. After being drafted by …well… everyone on the long front stretch, he was mired in the middle of the pack as the field came through Turn 1. Team Pelfrey’s Pipo Denari went off course and came back on track between T1 and T2, and right into the left rear of Spencer. That spin set him way back in the grid as well as giving him an ill-handling racing machine. The result was a P8 finish for the championship points leader. Contact again in Race #2 put Spencer back near the tail of the field again and resulted in another P8 finish.

Meanwhile, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Scott Hargrove took full advantage of the miscues winning both races, setting fastest race lap in both races, and leading the most laps in Race #2. This, along with his solid performances at St. Pete and Barber, really closed the gap to Spencer. The final race of the month on the 5/8-mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway for the Night Before the 500 turned out a little better for Spencer who finished the evening in P3, but Scott would do one better and finish in P2 closing Spencer’s lead to a mere three points, 180 to 177.

This weekend, the Pro Mazda Championship returns the track after a month hiatus. Well… “track” is used loosely here. They return to competition in the parking lot of Reliant Park Stadium. I still say they should just use cones and do an autocross. Regardless, they will run two races on Saturday and Sunday, and this the championship story could easily change dramatically. If Spencer has a bad weekend like he did at Indianapolis, Scott could take a solid lead as the series heads to Mid-Ohio. Conversely, it’s an opportunity for Spencer to solidify his lead if Scott has a rough time.

Lurking not too far behind are Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Neil Alberico, both with 127 points. They’re not close enough to take the lead after this weekend unless something extraordinary happens, but they can certainly make it a three or four-way battle for the championship at Mid-Ohio. In Free Practice 1 this morning, Pigot struggled for pace while Hargrove put in a 2nd fastest time. The spoiler in all this is Nicholas Costa who moves from M1 Racing to replace Pipo Denari at Team Pelfrey. He was on top of the the time sheets this morning, and will likely be a contender during this weekend’s races in spite of being well removed from the championship fight.

So what’s my prognostication? I don’t think you’ll be able to keep Juncos racing down for too long. Even though Kaiser struggled for pace as well, I think that by the end of Free Practice 2 this afternoon, he and Spencer will be back near the front. A win for Spencer may be elusive, though, as Costa plays the spoiler card. My picks for the Race #1 podium are Costa, Alberico, and Hargrove. Spencer will take a top-5, but not a podium. Race #2 is when I think Spencer and his teammate Kyle get the cars sorted out and I won’t be surprised to see both of them on the podium. My prediction for your Race #2 podium is Pigot, Costa, Kaiser. Yes, I think Costa has the pace to podium in both races. Team Pelfrey has been a strong team in the past, and although last year was a struggle, I think they now have everything back in place to challenge for race wins, and that’s why I think we’ll see a lot of Mr. Costa this weekend during the podium celebrations.

Don’t forget to tune in to live timing and scoring on the Pro Mazda Championship’s website at FP2 starts this afternoon at 2:15pm CDT, and this weekend’s schedule is shown below. All times are Central.

10:15 AM-10:45 AM Qualifying
2:05 PM-2:45 PM Race 1

Starting Lineup Race 2
2:00 PM-2:45 PM Race 2

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