Plenty of Talent On Deck for Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test
 December 10, 2013| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO, Fla. – Teams and drivers from all three levels of the highly acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy have converged on Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala., for the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test. The two-day outing, which commences today, will provide an opportunity for several new team and driver combinations to gain a head start on their preparations for 2014 as others evaluate program possibilities for next season.

The challenging 2.3-mile road course is part of the “regular” season schedule as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will be showcased next April 25-27 alongside the premier IndyCar Series.

Each of the three levels on the ladder boasts a mixture of newcomers and returning veterans for the test, many of them gaining their first on-track experience since the conclusion of the 2013 season. While weather and other circumstances have prevented several teams and drivers from making the trek to the scenic Barber circuit, over 40 drivers will be taking part in the outing. 

Blackstock, Pigot and Hargrove Head Pro Mazda Entries
Shelby Blackstock, Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove will head the field of Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires contenders at Barber Motorsports Park. Young Americans Blackstock and Pigot scored one victory apiece during their rookie Pro Mazda seasons in 2013 and will be among the favorites for honors next year. Canadian Hargrove, meanwhile, will be hoping to follow in Brabham’s footsteps after winning this year’s USF2000 title.

Blackstock, 23, from Nashville, Tenn., already has confirmed he will continue with Andretti Autosport in the Starstruck entry. Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., does not yet have a firm deal in place but will join 2010 series champions Juncos Racing for the test.

Hargrove, 18, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who won four races for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing en route to the USF2000 crown and a Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship to graduate to Pro Mazda, will return to test with the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based team – which recently announced an expansion into the Pro Mazda ranks – as he continues to work on his plans for 2014.

“I'm excited to get my first taste of a Pro Mazda car at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test,” said Hargrove. “It’s great to see the whole Mazda Road to Indy come together at this time of year as it allows drivers and teams to get a head start on preparations for 2014. Winning the 2013 USF2000 championship and the Mazda scholarship was a huge team effort and to see everyone’s hard work pay off is an incredible feeling. Hopefully, the momentum will continue in 2014 with the opportunity to move up in the Mazda Road to Indy.”

Neil Alberico, 21, from Los Gatos, Calif., has confirmed that he, too, will step up from USF2000 with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing after winning a season-high six races in 2013.

Other graduates from USF2000 making their unofficial debut in Pro Mazda at the test include Garett Grist and Michael Johnson, both of whom will be moving up with their existing teams. Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, will continue to drive for Andretti Autosport, while Johnson, from Flint, Mich., the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, will remain with JDC MotorSports.

Among the returning series veterans will be teenagers Kyle Kaiser, from San Jose, Calif., and Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, both of whom will join Juncos Racing for the test, and Expert class contender Jay Horak, from Mesa, Ariz., with M1 Racing. 

Kyle Connery, from Vero Beach, Fla., and Dalton Kellett, from Stouffville, Ont., Canada, each contested one Pro Mazda weekend in 2013 and are looking to step up full-time in 2014. Connery, a regular front-runner in the F2000 Championship Series the past few years, will join JDC MotorSports, while Kellett, a consistent top-10 contender in USF2000, has recently concluded a deal to join 2012 series champions Team Pelfrey.

Exam commitments at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., will restrict Kellett to a single day of testing, but newly announced Brazilian Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, a veteran of the European Formula 3 Championship who finished a strong third in last month’s prestigious Macau Grand Prix, will drive on both days for Team Pelfrey.

Several drivers will be taking advantage of some opportunities presented by the Mazda Road to Indy, including 17-year-old Englishman Harrison Scott, a front-runner in this year’s MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, and a trio of South Americans who finished among the top five in the LATAM Challenge Series. Jose Enrique Lopez, from Maturin, Venezuela, will share a JDC entry with Scott, while Sebastian Arriola, from Guatemala, and Mexican Fernando Urrutia will each drive one day with M1 Racing. 

Venezuelan Robert La Rocca, the 2012 F2000 champion, also will test with M1 Racing while Alfonso Celis of Mexico City, who contested the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship in 2013, will pilot Juncos Racing’s fourth entry.
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