Garett Grist finally found his way to Victory Lane this morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, overcoming points leader Scott Hargrove to win Round 10 of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Grist, 18, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, started his Andretti Autosport Van Diemen-Mazda from the pole but lost out to Hargrove as the field sped toward the first turn. Behind, there was mayhem as front row starter Neil Alberico, who had won both races yesterday, made contact with another car and spun in front of the main pack of 28 starters.
After a lengthy red-flag interruption while the track was cleared, the field was repositioned to the original grid order, minus the cars that had been involved in the original accident, with Grist on point ahead of Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), RC Enerson (ZSports Midwest with Team E Racing), Henrik Furuseth (PRL Motorsports) and Felipe Donato (ArmsUp Motorsports). Hargrove made a fine jump to displace Grist from the lead at Turn One but maintained that advantage for only two more laps before Grist squeezed past on the inside line under braking for the Keyhole (Turn Two).
The young Canadian, who had lost a potential win in Round Nine yesterday afternoon by running onto the grass at the Carousel while in the lead, made no mistakes this time around, posting a series of fastest race laps as he pulled clear to win by 3.391 seconds.
“This has been a long timing coming. Even yesterday, I thought we had a chance to get two wins but I made a mistake and we had a mechanical," he related. "That stuff happens but the win today is big. It is big for the team and for me and everyone is feeling good now. On the pass [for the lead], I think I almost had two wheels on the grass going up the inside into [Turn] Two. I have to thank Scott for giving me just enough room to pull it off. I knew he was thinking about championship points, too, and I wouldn't want to be the guy to ruin his championship. So, thank you to Scott. Once I had the pass done, I just focused on checking out. I knew we had a good car and I knew we were fast in both races yesterday so I knew we had the pace to pull away.”
Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was content with second, especially since his closest rival in the points, Alberico, was already on the sidelines. Hargrove, though, had his work cut out to maintain second from a charging Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., who secured his second podium finish in as many days.
Norwegian teenager Furuseth matched his career best result with fourth ahead of Donato, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, whose previous best finish had been seventh in Toronto.
Brandon Newey (Afterburner Autosport) secured sixth ahead of a fast-closing Michael Epps (Belardi Auto Racing), who had taken the restart in 13th place and drove impressively through the field to seventh.
Cleveland's Wyatt Gooden (Afterburner Autosport) emerged in front of a frantic battle for eighth that also included Austin Cindric (Andretti Autosport) and Matt McMurry (Belardi Auto Racing), both of whom claimed career-best finishes. Gooden also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting a lowly 19th on the grid.
Camden, Ohio's Scott Rettich (Alliance Autosport) once again was untroubled en route to his ninth win in the USF2000 National Class Presented by SCCA Enterprises in as many races this season.
Contingency awards included the Staubli Award to Furuseth, the PFC Award to the winning car owners of Andretti Autosport and Alliance Autosport and the National Class Masters Award Presented by Elite/Comprent to Rettich.