Leeds, Ala. - Spencer Pigot continued his domination of this year's Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with another commanding performance this morning at Barber Motorsports Park. Pigot took off into the lead from pole position and held on to score his third race win in as many starts for Juncos Racing.
Scott Hargrove, who won last year's Cooper Tires UF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, earning a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize to graduate into Pro Mazda for this season, never allowed Pigot to relax and finished just 1.6111 seconds behind after 20 laps.
Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., arrived in Alabama brimming with confidence after clinching the preseason Cooper Tires mini-series with a victory at the scenic and challenging 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course - and winning both rounds of the "regular season" opener last month in St. Petersburg, Fla. But on this occasion Pigot had to work for his laurels.
Hargrove, who has stepped up to Pro Mazda in conjunction with his team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, posted the fastest time in practice yesterday, with Pigot languishing in third, unhappy with the balance of his car. Undeterred, Pigot and his team made some subtle changes for qualifying, and Pigot did the rest, edging his rival by just 0.0529 of a second to ensure his third consecutive pole.
The start was always going to be crucial on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult, and so it proved. The first attempt at a start was waved off when officials adjudged Pigot to have jumped a little too soon. Hargrove tried his hardest to redress the balance on the second attempt, even running a wheel onto the grass, but Pigot kept his cool - and his lead.
The pair traded fastest laps several times as the race progressed before Pigot edged away just a little and maintained his lead until the finish.
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), who finished second in both of the first two races, had to make do with third on this occasion after ousting the second Cape Motorsports car of Neil Alberico at the first turn.
Alberico also fell victim to an opportunistic outside-line pass in Turn Five on the opening lap by Brazilian Pipo Derani, who qualified a disappointing seventh but made another of his trademark excellent starts for Team Pelfrey. Derani held fourth when the caution flags waved after Julia Ballario (Juncos Racing) slid out of eighth place and into the gravel trap at Turn One, but lost the place again soon after the restart when Alberico lunged down to the inside, brakes locked up, to regain the place in Turn Five.
Derani also lost a position on Lap 11 to Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), who closed rapidly on Alberico in the closing stages before having to settle for fifth. Blackstock's move on Derani earned him the Replay XD Move of the Race.
Derani in sixth was followed by a tight train of cars comprising Ryan Booth (JDC MotorSports), Garett Grist (Andretti Autosport), Jose Gutierrez (Juncos Racing) and Dalton Kellett (Team Pelfrey).
Jeff Harrison made a fine return to the sport after a lengthy absence by winning the Expert division honors, for drivers aged 30 or over. Harrison, from Grapevine, Texas, finished 15th overall for World Speed Motorsports.
Additional contingency awards included the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award for most positions gained to Kyle Connery, who advanced from 19th to eighth; the PFC Award and customized Race Energy charger - the official battery of the ladder series - to Juncos Racing; and the Staubli Award to Hargrove.