St. Petersburg notes: Alberico, Eidson, Beretta, Jenner score Sunday wins

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ST. PETERSBURG – The weekend of racing on the streets of St. Petersburg continued earlier Sunday, with five preliminary races before Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season opener.

Ed Jones doubled up in Indy Lights, while quick recaps of Pro Mazda, USF2000, Pirelli World Challenge and Stadium Super Trucks are below (Saturday recaps linked here):

MAZDA ROAD TO INDY (PRO MAZDA, USF2000)

After banking his first career win on Saturday, Neil Alberico repeated the feat on Sunday for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Alberico turned in a second successive dominant drive, which put the cherry on top of a weekend that was lat in even materializing.

“We didn’t get much testing in the offseason, since the deal came together at the last minute,” said the Rising Star Racing-backed driver. “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.”

Jose Gutierrez was second for Juncos Racing, while Alberico’s Cape teammate Daniel Burkett scored a long overdue first podium in the Mazda Road to Indy with third.

“Dude it’s been a while,” Burkett exhaled to MotorSportsTalk. “I had a few good runs at Mid-O in USF. I thought I could get it at Sonoma. To be on the podium with my teammate, is surreal. (This car) is right in the middle (of USF2000 and Atlantic, which he raced in 2014), which is just what we were going for.”

The second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race of the weekend was much the same as Saturday’s, with Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) completing a pole-to-win, flag-to-flag sweep of the day. As they were on Saturday, two more Cape drivers – Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin – followed Eidson home.

“You talk about having weekends like this, but to actually have one is definitely easier said than done,” Eidson said. “Everyone at Pabst Racing has worked so hard, especially since Winterfest. We weren’t sure what kind of results we were going to have – obviously we were aiming for the win – but to actually execute it is a relief.”

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE

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Beretta wins PWC. Photo: Pirelli World Challenge

Like Saturday’s Round 3, Round 4 for the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup presented by MOMO classes was marred by extended yellow-flag periods. Sunday’s occurred as a spin by Dan Knox’s Viper forced Tim Pappas to lock the brakes of his Mercedes and avoid hitting the spun car at the exit of Turn 2. The problem occurred when three GT Cup cars barreled into the accident scene and caused further damage, blocking the track and putting the race under yellow for more than half an hour of the 50-minute race.

Olivier Beretta, who had made a dynamic start in his Ferrari, survived the remaining green flag running en route to his second win of the season, winning from Nick Catsburg (Lamborghini) and Kevin Estre (McLaren). Ryan Dalziel (Porsche) finished fourth, in his first non-podium result of the season.

STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS

Sometimes pictures do a better job of capturing a weekend than words do, so here’s some from SST on Sunday, where Burt Jenner won.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”