Wide-Open Pro Mazda Field is Led by Californian Neil Alberico
 April 22, 2015| 
  • Series News

After splitting their resources the past couple of weeks, all three series which comprise the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – will join together again this coming weekend in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Two rounds will be held for each series on the picturesque and challenging 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course.

The Mazda Road to Indy is a proven driver development “ladder” which guides drivers all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, with scholarship packages to assist in the graduation to each level.

Most of the Pro Mazda grid already have some experience on the undulating Barber Motorsports Park track this year after contesting a pair of pre-season Cooper Tires Winterfest races, and even though California Neil Alberico did not make that trip, he is still expected to be among the pacesetters this weekend. Alberico, 22, earned two top-six finishes at Barber during his rookie 2014 campaign, en route to third in the championship standings, and belied his lack of pre-season mileage by winning both opening rounds in St. Petersburg for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

The other race winner so far this season is Uruguayan rookie Santi Urrutia for Team Pelfrey. After racing in Europe for the past five years in a variety of junior formulae, Urrutia made an impression on his North American debut, finishing second in Race One at St. Petersburg, then added a fourth in Race Two followed by an impressive wet weather victory last time out at NOLA Motorsports Park. Urrutia currently lies just four points adrift of Alberico with a total of 65 points on offer during the two races at Barber.

Teammate Pato O’Ward, 15, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and now a student and resident of San Antonio, Texas, also shone in the early season races, highlighted by a pair of fourth-place finishes and a fastest race lap most recently at NOLA.

Fellow Monterrey native Jose Gutierrez and Frenchman Timothé Buret, driving for defending champion team Juncos Racing, plus Malaysian Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport) and the Cape Motorsports pair of Florian Latorre, last year’s USF2000 champion, and Canadian Daniel Burkett also have podium finishes to their credit from an intensely competitive opening three races of the 16-round season.

The Pro Mazda contingent will begin their weekend with two promoter test sessions on Thursday, followed by official practice at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, and a half-hour qualifying period at 3:15 p.m. Race One for the Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama is set to start at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, and Race Two on Sunday, April 26, at 9:00 a.m. All times are local. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com.

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