Expanded Cooper Tires Winterfest Heads to Louisiana, Alabama
 February 20, 2014| 
  • Series News

Four Races for Pro Mazda, Six for USF2000, Plus Extended Testing for Indy Lights

PALMETTO, Fla. – The fourth annual Cooper Tires Winterfest will kick off on Friday, February 21, with an expanded portfolio, plenty of track time for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder and two new venues.

What began in 2011 as a four-race mini-series in Florida for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda now has grown into a twin-state fiesta which will comprise six races for USF2000 and four races for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, as well as a comprehensive test outing for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitors. The entire extravaganza will take place over a seven-day period beginning this Friday and Saturday, February 21/22, at NOLA Motorsports Park, just outside New Orleans, La., and continuing next Tuesday and Wednesday, February 25/26, at Barber Motorsports Park, near Birmingham, Ala.

The popular Winterfest concept will enable teams and drivers to gain a head start on preparations for the “regular season” which will begin on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in conjunction with the IndyCar Series, on March 28-30.

Brabham Sets out on Quest for Championship Triple
Twelve cars have been entered for the Indy Lights portion of the Cooper Tires Winterfest, marking a significant surge in interest since the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy has been brought under the auspices of Andersen Promotions.

Third-generation racer Matthew Brabham will be making the step up to Indy Lights this year and seeks to become the first driver ever to win all three steps of the Mazda Road to Indy in consecutive seasons. Brabham, now 20, won the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda as a rookie, and last year used his prize – a MAZDASPEED Driver Development scholarship – to excellent effect by dominating the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Among those seeking to prevent Brabham from achieving that remarkable feat will be his own Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach. The diminutive Ohioan placed seventh in his rookie Indy Lights campaign which included a pole position in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in California. Veach, 19, also posted the fastest time at the first open test of 2014 at Sebring International Raceway in January.

Other front-runners will include the usual strong contingent from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports which has garnered each of the past four Indy Lights titles. Highly rated Englishman Jack Harvey, 20, who carries support from his nation’s Racing Steps Foundation, series veteran Juan Pablo Garcia, from Mexico City, and Colombian rookie Juan Piedrahita, who is stepping up from Pro Mazda, are all looking to follow in the footsteps of J-K Vernay, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier and last year’s champion Sage Karam (who also claimed the USF2000 spoils in 2010).

Belardi Auto Racing, which broke through into Victory Lane in 2013, thanks to a sensational last-gasp effort by Peter Dempsey in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, will field cars at the Winterfest for Gabby Chaves and Alex Baron. Florida-based Colombian Chaves finished a close second in the 2013 Indy Lights campaign, while teenager Baron, who carries dual French and British citizenship, is stepping up into Indy Lights after winning two of the four USF2000 races he contested in 2013.

Additional entries have been confirmed for the rejuvenated Fan Force United team and rookie driver Scott Anderson, who has performed well in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda over the past two seasons; Team Moore Racing, which will run Canadian Zack Meyer, a veteran of Pro Mazda; and Bryan Herta Autosport/Jeffrey Mark Motorsport for yet another Pro Mazda graduate, Lloyd Read.

Cooper Tires Winterfest Schedule
Indy Lights competitors will have a total of more than six hours of track time at each of the two venues split into four sessions over two days. USF2000 and Pro Mazda each will start out with a practice session and a qualifying session on Day 1, followed by one race later in the afternoon. Day 2 at each track will comprise two practice sessions and one race for Pro Mazda and one practice plus two additional races for USF2000.

Live timing will be available on the respective series websites, www.indylights.com, www.promazdachampionship.com and www.usf2000.com.

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