American Spencer Pigot and Canadian Scott Hargrove will continue their battle for supremacy in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend.
After nine races and with five rounds remaining, they are separated by just 17 points before the pair of 40-minute races at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
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During the month-long hiatus since the last two races in Houston, Pigot and Hargrove have continued their rivalry in the Canadian Porsche GT3 championship, each of them winning once two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto.
The battle has ebbed and flowed as the season has progressed. Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., began with a flourish, winning each of the first four races for Juncos Racing. Then, while Pigot encountered some misfortunes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval, Hargrove, 19, from Vancouver, British Columbia, stepped up by scooping three wins and a second-place finish in Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car.
The tide turned one more time in the second of two races at Houston in late June, with Hargrove crashing out on Lap 1 and Pigot cementing his authority with his fifth win of the season.
Both have enjoyed success previously at Mid-Ohio, with Pigot winning a USF2000 race in 2012 and Hargrove snagging a pair of second-place finishes last year en route to the USF2000 championship.
Alberico, Kaiser seeking breakthrough wins
Their respective teammates, Kyle Kaiser and Neil Alberico, have both been knocking on the door of victory lane this year. Kaiser, 18, from Santa Clara, Calif., began the season with three straight podium finishes for Juncos Racing, while Alberico, 21, from nearby Los Gatos, Calif., also has three podium finishes to his name, including a fighting drive to second in Race 2 at Houston. Alberico won two of the three USF2000 races at Mid-Ohio in 2013.
Other top contenders will include Andretti Autosport teammates Shelby Blackstock and Garett Grist. Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., endured a disappointing start to his sophomore Pro Mazda season but has bounced back strongly, rising to fourth place in the standings. Rookie Grist, meanwhile, from Grimsby, Ontario, won handsomely at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval and started from the pole in both Houston races. Grist also knows how to win at Mid-Ohio, scooping his maiden USF2000 victory at the venue in 2013.
Connery and Newey return, Lift set for debut
Kyle Connery, from Vero Beach, Fla., will return to the series this weekend after a three-race hiatus. A former race winner in the F2000 Championship Series at Mid-Ohio, Connery will once again drive for JDC MotorSports alongside team regulars Ryan Booth, from Charleston, S.C., who snagged a season-high fourth in the most recent race at Houston, and Michael Johnson, from Flint, Mich., who displays astonishing speed for someone who was paralyzed from the chest down following a motorcycle racing accident at the age of 14.
Brandon Newey also will be back behind the wheel for Team Pelfrey. The son of Bryan Herta Autosport co-owner Steve Newey has kept his hand in by scoring a win and a second-place finish in the F1600 Championship Series at Virginia International Raceway in June as well as a hard-fought victory in the Canadian F1600 series two weeks ago in Toronto.
SCCA racer Brian Lift will make his professional debut this weekend at the wheel of HAVOC Motorsport's car. Lift, from Crestwood, Ill., finished second at last year's 50th annual SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America.