NEW ORLEANS – Spencer Pigot began the new season precisely as he wanted at NOLA Motorsports Park. The 20-year-old from Orlando, Fla., qualified on pole position for 2010 championship-winning team Juncos Racing, jumped into a clear lead at the start and was never seriously challenged.
Pigot also set the fastest lap of the race for good measure to ensure he would start from the pole in Race 2 tomorrow afternoon.
Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., finished second for Andretti Autosport, while teenager Kyle Kaiser, from San Jose Calif., claimed third in a second Juncos Racing entry. All three podium finishers are entering their second season of Pro Mazda competition.
Pigot, who endured a disappointing rookie campaign in 2013 after winning a total of 11 races in USF2000 over the previous two years and only narrowly missing out on the championship title on each occasion, arrived in Louisiana with high expectations after some solid recent outings in testing with Juncos Racing. He used his experience to excellent effect by posting the fastest time in practice this morning and then securing the pole just a few hours later.
Pigot’s start was exemplary, too. Kaiser, who started third, remained glued to his teammate’s rear wing on the long drag race toward Turn One, but it was Pigot who turned into the corner in front. He never looked back.
After his efforts in qualifying had been hampered by some mechanical problems, Blackstock put those behind him with a magnificent charge from fifth on the grid to second at the exit of the first turn. He made a mistake midway around the first lap, losing touch with Pigot, but remained in second place for the remainder of the 18-lap race which was run under green conditions throughout. By the end, Pigot was more than 11 seconds in front.
After losing almost four seconds to Blackstock in the opening six laps, Kaiser stepped up his game dramatically. Under pressure from a charging Canadian Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport), who made an impressive Pro Mazda debut, Kaiser closed the gap to Blackstock to less than a second with two laps remaining. Blackstock, though, held on for second place and was shadowed across the line by both Kaiser and Grist.
Scott Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, also ran strongly on his Pro Mazda debut. Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion remained in touch with Grist to claim fifth ahead of the Team Pelfrey pair of Dalton Kellett, also from Canada, and Brazilian Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, who had started dead last in the 13-car field following some mechanical dramas in qualifying.
Michael Johnson (JDC MotorSports), from Flint, Mich., the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder, finished a solid eighth on his Pro Mazda debut, followed by Juncos Racing teammates Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, and Julia Ballario, from Marcos Juarez, Argentina.