HOUSTON – Scott Hargrove did precisely what he needed in Race 1 of the Marlin CNG Services Grand Prix of Houston to accomplish his season-long goal.

The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver, who started from the pole on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn circuit, finished third and secured the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion’s title.

Hargrove, 18, of Vancouver, British Columbia, moved into the championship points lead at the start of the season, collecting three wins in the first four events, and didn’t relinquish the top spot. Overall, Hargrove had four wins, nine podiums and six poles in the No. 38 Analytic Systems/Race Energy/Metal Action/Skip Barber Racing/Bell Racing entry.

“We came into (Race 1) with a good lead in the championship and I knew that I just needed a solid finish to end the championship 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.

“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.”

Hargrove, who was a Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner two years ago, finished second in the 2011 Skip Barber Summer Series and was Rookie of the Year before moving up to USF2000 last year in a partial season that saw his progress culminate in his first podium in the season finale at Baltimore.

He received the Mazda Road to Indy prize of a scholarship package from Mazda valued at more than $383,000 to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014.

“Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing have done an incredible job the entire season,” Hargrove said. “Today was a great day for the team and a big thanks to them and all of my supporters this year.”

Teammate Neil Alberico kept up the pressure through the penultimate race of the season and earned championship runner-up status. In Race 2 on Oct. 6, Alexandre Baron of Afterburner Autosport claimed his second victory in four starts this season.

USF2000 - Race 1 Podium from Houston