Both Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove have marked themselves as "the real deal" as the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires has unfolded.
This weekend at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., the talented duo will go head-to-head for the championship title.
Victory Aug. 17 on the Milwaukee Mile oval was Pigot's sixth of the season from 12 races for Juncos Racing, enabling him to build a 19-point advantage over Hargrove with just this weekend's pair of races on the challenging 2.385-mile, 12-turn natural terrain road course remaining. Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., convincingly won the pre-season Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Winterfest mini-series after finishing fourth as a rookie in the 2013 Pro Mazda championship. He previously took second in both 2011 and 2012 editions of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Rookie Hargrove, 19, from Vancouver, British Columbia, won last year's USF2000 championship and has designs on following in the footsteps of current Indy Lights driver Matthew Brabham who became the first driver ever to win successive USF2000 and Pro Mazda titles in 2012 and 2013. Hargrove, who has won three races this year for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, already has clinched BBS Rookie of the Year honors.
Californian Alberico heads close tussle for third
Hargrove's teammate, Neil Alberico, from Los Gatos, Calif., holds third place in the overall standings, and second in the rookie chase, but has a host of rivals breathing down his neck. Alberico currently has a nine-point edge over Andretti Autosport's Shelby Blackstock, who produced a stunning charge last weekend at Milwaukee to vault from eighth to third in the closing stages.
Blackstock's teammate, Garett Grist, whose roller-coaster rookie campaign has included two wins, lies 15 markers behind and just one point clear of both Brazilian Nicolas Costa (Team Pelfrey) and another local driver, Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), who will be looking to rediscover the form that brought him successive podium finishes in the first three races of the year. Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., perhaps has more experience than any of his rivals at Sonoma Raceway, having won the Sonoma-based Formula Car Challenge Pro Mazda division as a 16-year-old in 2012.
Aitken, Bickers, Keyes and Nicklin set for Pro Mazda debuts
Hopes are high for the largest field of the season this weekend, with several talented youngsters looking to make their mark in what has been one of the strongest seasons for Pro Mazda for several years.
London-based Jack Aitken will make his North American debut with Team Pelfrey after scoring some strong results in European Formula Renault competition. Last year's Team USA Scholarship winner Joey Bickers, from Moorpark, Calif., will make the big step up from racing in the Mazda MX-5 Championship, joining World Speed Motorsports alongside 17-year-old Alex Keyes, from Folsom, Calif., who recently clinched the West Coast-based Formula Car Challenge aboard a Lynx Racing Pro Mazda car. Parker Nicklin, 17, from Las Vegas, who lies second to Keyes in the FCC after winning last year's FormulaSPEED 2.0 series, also will step up to Pro Mazda with M1 Racing.