California Racer Secures Second Mazda Road to Indy Win for Local Team
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Neil Alberico scored his second Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires victory in as many days as he led throughout this morning’s second stanza of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The popular Californian started from the pole for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and was never seriously threatened during the half-hour race.
Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, finished second for defending champion team Juncos Racing, while Alberico’s teammate, Canadian rookie Daniel Burkett, secured his first podium finish with third.
Alberico lost no time in displaying his dominance after the first six laps were completed behind the Pace Car following a five-car incident in Turn Four on the opening lap. He led by a full 1.2 seconds at the completion of the first lap of green-flag racing, and even though his charge was halted by another caution which left time enough merely for a one-lap dash to the checkers, Alberico remained unflustered as he romped home the winner by a little less than one second.
Burkett provided one of the drives of the race as he made his way from sixth on the grid to third. Another strong run by the Canadian had ended early yesterday following an incident in Turn One, but Burkett showed no ill effects as he made up two positions at the start, then passed Saturday’s second-place finisher, Santiago Urrutia (Team Pelfrey) at the restart on Lap 7. The pass earned Burkett the Replay XD Move of the Race Award. He also slipped briefly into second place with a brave move past Gutierrez in Turn One on Lap 9, but was unable to cement the claim as Gutierrez regained the place almost immediately.
The Mexican and the Canadian continued their tussle to the flag at the final restart, with Burkett once again attempting a bold maneuver into Turn One. Gutierrez managed to maintain his advantage, leaving Burkett to fight off the advances of Urrutia, Kyle Connery (JDC MotorSports) and Garett Grist (Juncos Racing) at the line.
Brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape took home the PFC Award as the winning car owners, while Gutierrez secured the Staubli Award. The Quartermaster Hard Charger Award went to Expert Class winner Jay Horak (M1 Racing), who gained eight positions from 17th place on the grid to finish ninth.
The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with another pair of races at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, La., on April 10-12.
Neil Alberico (#3 Rising Star Racing/Mobe-Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing): “We didn’t get much testing in the off season, since the deal came together at the last minute. We were a little behind the eight-ball, since the other drivers had more time behind the wheel and more momentum. For me, just to be on the grid to start the season was going to be great. So to have this kind of result for everyone who has supported me was incredible. This is the best start to a season I’ve ever had; I’ve had misfortune here in the past but everything comes full circle. This is a great way to start the season, for me and for the team – we had two Cape cars on the podium both days. Now we’re looking forward to NOLA in two weeks.”