MRTI: Pigot, Enerson take Winterfest titles; Brabham leads Lights testing

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The 2014 Cooper Tires Winterfest for the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series is in the books. After New Orleans got the party started last week, the series concluded after two days at Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) and 2013 USF2000 champion Scott Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) won the pair of Pro Mazda class races, with Pigot’s fourth top-two finish in as many races enough to secure him his second career Winterfest title. He also took the 2012 USF2000 Winterfest crown, winning five of six races that year driving for Cape.

“The Cooper Tires Winterfest has been great,” Pigot said. “I worked really well with the team and they did an awesome job all week. We won two races, were fastest every session on track and took every pole position so we can’t be disappointed with that. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and keep the car up at the front in the main season. We will still be working hard to improve as we head into St. Petersburg, but I can’t thank them enough for all of their hard work this week.”

In USF2000, Englishman Michael Epps won Tuesday’s pair of races for Belardi Auto Racing while RC Enerson of Team E took the Wednesday win, and the young 16-year-old from New Port Richey, Fla. had enough to secure the USF2000 Winterfest title.

“It was a great race today. I made a good start and just held my own in the race,” Enerson said after the race win. “To win the championship is just amazing. I want to carry this with me into the season and, hopefully, use this momentum to good effect in St. Pete and try to go for the regular season championship.”

Matthew Brabham, who has won the Pro Mazda and USF2000 regular season championships the last two years, ended on top in the two days of Indy Lights testing in his Andretti Autosport entry. Over two cold days on the 2.3-mile road course in Birmingham, Ala., the series rookie ended with a flier of 1:15.160.

Belardi’s Gabby Chaves ended second at 1:15.461 with Schmidt Peterson’s Luiz Razia third at 1:15.522. Neither is yet confirmed for the full season, but both have enjoyed multiple tests with these same teams this winter.

Meanwhile the second Andretti car (Zach Veach) and second SPM car (Jack Harvey) rounded out the top five.

All three series will kick off their regular seasons in St. Petersburg on the undercard to IndyCar, March 28-30. Indy Lights will have a single race while both Pro Mazda and USF2000 will have double-headers.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.