Spencer Pigot strengthened his lead in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda by winning the traditional “Night Before the 500” at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis after a thrilling duel with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Matthew Brabham.
Brabham, 19, had qualified on pole position – his third of the season – and held off a strong challenge from Pigot into the first corner. The race was neutralized shortly thereafter when Heamin Choi lost control of his No. 21 Afterburner Autosport Van Diemen-Mazda, triggering a massive pile-up between Turns One and Two on Lap 2 which sidelined eight of the 21 starters, including all three JDC MotorSport entries. Choi, who had qualified an impressive sixth, was transported to Methodist Hospital as a precautionary measure and has been released.
After a lengthy clean-up, the race was restarted with 19 laps in the books. Brabham looked to have made a good jump to maintain his advantage, but Pigot had other ideas. The youngster from Orlando, Fla., dived to the inside line in Turn One and emerged onto the back straightaway in the lead. But Brabham fought back immediately, and the pair spent most of the next seven laps in an entertaining side-by-side fight for supremacy.
“It was a fantastic race” Pigot said. “Racing side by side with Matt was awesome. It was some of the best racing I have ever had. We were both pushing hard and I think some of my fastest times were when we were side by side.”
Finally, on Lap 27, after the pair made light contact on the back straightaway, Pigot was able to make a slight break and cement his position out in front.
Pigot survived a couple of close moments while lapping some slower traffic to claim his fourth win of the season. Brabham had to be content with second but gained some consolation by claiming the bonus point for fastest lap – by a scant 0.070s – and so trails Pigot by only six points, 146 to 140, after five rounds.
“I had a good battle with Spencer most of the race and we were running side by side,” Brabham said. “It was very exciting and, unfortunately, I made a little bit of contact and bent my steering and it was out for the rest of the race. I still had a pretty good pace and I am happy with second. It is good for the championship points and I am pleased with how it went but I am a bit disappointed about getting second.”
Overshadowed by the lead pair, Roman Lagudi drove another strong race for Belardi Auto Racing to claim his fourth podium finish in five races. Lagudi has yet to finish outside the top five to date this season.
Teammate Scott Anderson (No. 14 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Neuropathy Testing Center/Laser Nail Centers) secured his best result of the season so far of fourth after a spirited battle with Trent Hindman (No. 3 Premier Woodcraft/ Zydro+/DFL Construction/RaceLite Protection - Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) and 2011 National Class champion Luca Forgeois (No. 9 Gearup/Splashlight/Café Noir - Belardi Auto Racing).
RC Enerson (No. 10 Patriot Bank/Team E - ZSports with Team E Racing) also drove a strong race, rising from 20th on the grid following a mechanical problem in qualifying to pass Matthew Di Leo (No. 56 Res Precast - MDL Racing) for seventh on Lap 37. The result represented an impressive Championship Class debut for 15-year-old Enerson, the youngest driver in the field, who took advantage of the fact that National Class cars were not eligible for the series' only oval race of the season to step up to the premier category.