Spencer Pigot scored an accomplished debut victory in just his third start in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, leading from flag to flag this afternoon on the 1.8-mile street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Pigot, 17, from Windermere, Fla., held onto his pole advantage in the No. 8 Team MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber Andretti Autosport Van Diemen and was never headed in the 21-lap race. He garnered two additional championship points for winning the pole yesterday and leading most laps this afternoon, but was denied a maximum score by Finnish teenager Petri Suvanto (No. 3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who pushed Pigot every inch of the way and earned the bonus point for posting the fastest lap of the race.
"It was really tough race with Petri not too far behind me," said Pigot. I had to get a good gap on cold tires and put my head down for the first few laps. I was able to do that and keep consistent, then push when I needed to. I have to say a big thanks to everyone at MAZDASPEED and Cooper Tires and all the Andretti Autosport guys. It's great to get my first win.”
Agreed Suvanto, “That battle with Spencer was one of the best battles of my life. I mean, I don't have the words to describe it. It's just awesome to be part of this race and this is definitely one of my favorite tracks; with the walls that close, it's great.”
A first-corner incident unfortunately sidelined four potential contenders, including former series leader Luke Ellery, who had qualified seventh, and outside front row qualifier – and JDC MotorSports teammate – Juan Piedrahita. Pabst Racing Services' Tonis Kasemets and Timmy Megenbier (Sick Tea Racing) also were eliminated.
Fifteen-year-old rookie Matthew Di Leo, from Innisfil, Ont., Canada, was the biggest gainer in the melee, jumping from 10th on the grid to third in Brian Stewart Racing's No. 33 Res Precast entry. Di Leo displayed tremendous potential by holding onto third place at the restart, although he finally ceded the position to second-year driver Zach Veach.
The 16-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio, was among many to be held up in the first-corner incident, slipping from fifth place on the grid to seventh. Veach then put his head down and picked off rivals one at a time before out-braking Di Leo into Turn One on Lap 18 to round out the podium in the No. 7 Team Zakosi Backup/Andretti Autosport car.
Di Leo held onto a nonetheless impressive fourth ahead of Floridian Cole Morgan (No. 9 Liberty Engineering/Sim-Sport/Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen), Frenchman Vincent Beltoise (No. 32 Pole Mecanique Ales en Cevennes/INSA de Lyon/Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Van Diemen) and Northern Irishman Wayne Boyd (No. 4 DHL/Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen), who had been locked in combat throughout the race.
Luca Forgeois, 15, from New York City, N.Y., scored his second National class victory aboard the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports/Café Noir Van Diemen, thereby taking the lead in the points table over 2010 National champion Ardie Greenamyer, from Louisville, Ky., who spun out of second place on Lap 10. J.R. Smart, from Madison, Wis., maintained his consistent form for Pabst Racing Service's team by finishing ahead of the recovering Greenamyer.
Pigot's victory has vaulted him into the championship lead by a margin of 79 points to 73 over fellow rookie Suvanto. Veach holds down third place after three rounds with 69.
By virtue of posting fastest lap today, Suvanto will start on the pole for tomorrow afternoon's second race of the weekend which will take the green flag at 3:30 p.m. EDT, after the IZOD IndyCar Series opener.