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.
International Field Highlights USF2000 Entry List
An intriguing mix of veterans and rookies have set their sights on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Winterfest which will comprise three races apiece at the two distinctly different road courses. NOLA, at 2.75 miles, is fast and flat, situated just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans, while Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama – rated by Road & Track as “one of the most beautiful tracks in North America” – features plenty of elevation change within its 2.38 miles.
Drivers have been drawn literally from around the globe. Nine countries and four continents – Europe, Australia, North America and South America – are represented on the entry list, and the list of potential front-runners is extensive.
Returning veterans will include Norway’s Henrik Furuseth (JAY Motorsports), Frenchman Florian Latorre (Belardi Auto Racing), Brazilian Danilo Estrela (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), RC Enerson (Team E Racing), from New Port Richey, Fla., and Plainfield, Conn, native Peter Portante (ArmsUp Motorsports). All four earned podium finishes in 2013, highlighted by Estrela’s victory in Toronto, and fully intend to follow in the footsteps of Canadian Scott Hargrove by winning the USF2000 crown and claiming a MAZDASPEED scholarship to progress into Pro Mazda in 2015.
Other notable series veterans will include Dutchman Jeroen Slaghekke (Afterburner Autosport), Englishman Michael Epps and Canadian Daniel Burkett (Belardi Auto Racing), Australian Scott Andrews (JDC MotorSports) and Americans Austin Cindric (Pabst Racing) and Clark Toppe (JDC MotorSports).
First-year stand-outs are likely to include Americans Jake Eidson and Aaron Telitz, and Frenchman Nico Jamin. Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., is a proven winner having claimed no fewer than three Skip Barber championships and last year’s F1600 Championship Series title as well as a coveted Team USA Scholarship. Furthermore, he will drive for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing which has won the past three USF2000 crowns. Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., has joined ArmsUp Motorsports after winning the Skip Barber National Championship Shootout last fall, while Jamin will count on his experience in European Formula Renault competition when he joins Belardi Auto Racing.
Miami, Fla.-based M2 Autosport will be making its USF2000 debut with a pair of Colombian drivers, Juan Diego Maldonado and Santiago Lorenzo.
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.