HOUSTON – Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver Scott Hargrove captured the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion’s title today in fine fashion.
Hargrove did what he needed to do to ensure that the battle for the title would not go down to the season-ending Marlin CNG Services Grand Prix of Houston Race 2 tomorrow by starting from pole and bringing home a third-place finish.
Hargrove, 18, of Vancouver, British Columbia, roared into the championship point lead at the start of the season collecting three wins in the first four events. It was a lead he would not relinquish despite pressure from teammate and now championship runner-up Neil Alberico, who took the challenge for the top honor down to the wire on the streets of Houston.
Finding his niche with the back-to-back championship-winning Cape Motorsports team, Hargrove shone, capturing four wins, nine podiums, five fastest race laps and six poles aboard the No. 38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing entry.
Hargrove, who was a Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner a scant two years ago, finished second in the 2011 Skip Barber Summer Series and was Rookie of the Year before graduating to USF2000 last year in a partial season that saw his progress culminate in his first podium in the season finale at Baltimore.
“We came into today with a good lead in the championship and I knew that I just needed a solid finish to end the championship today and that’s exactly what we did,” Hargrove said. “I went all out in qualifying and was able to get the pole on the last lap, which was pretty thrilling. I took the lead off the start and it was probably the calmest place I could have been and the most in-control place for me to be to secure the championship. As soon as the yellow came out, I knew that I would be hard-pressed to keep the lead from Neil who wanted to win. He got the jump and was able to win the race, but it didn’t matter to me. Finishing third feels like a win because of the championship we have won. I have to thank USF2000, the whole Mazda Road to Indy and Mazda for giving me a great platform to race on, and the prize that they have handed out is second to none. I am thrilled and I just couldn’t be happier.”
He will be presented with his Mazda Road to Indy prize of a scholarship package from Mazda valued at over $383,000 to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014 tomorrow evening at the series’ awards banquet to be held at the St. Regis Houston.
Alberico needed two wins and some misfortune on Hargrove’s part to take the series crown. He proved he was up to the task with a magnificent pass on a late race restart to take the lead and claim his sixth win of the season.
“I am pretty excited about how today ended. It has been a really good season with my teammate Scott Hargrove – and congratulations to him first of all on the championship,” Alberico said. “Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing have done an incredible job the entire season. There’s one more race left tomorrow and I think that one is going to be all about pride. We are all going to go out and try to win it. Today was a great day for the team and a big thanks to them and all of my supporters this year.”
Henrik Furuseth, with PRL Motorsports, who posted his best starting position of the season in third, also found a way past Hargrove to claim his first USF2000 podium after earning the National Class champion’s title last season. Furuseth also posted the fastest lap and will start on pole for Race 2 tomorrow – another career first.
Wyatt Gooden of Afterburner Autosport added another impressive drive to go from 11th to fourth as did Michael Epps of Belardi Auto Racing, who notched his third top-five of the year.