For the second event in a row, the Barber Dodge Series will visit a new event, this time in the form of the Chicago Motor Speedway for round 8 of the 2001 season on Saturday, July 28. The stop in the Windy City will be the one and only oval race...
For the second event in a row, the Barber Dodge Series will visit a new event, this time in the form of the Chicago Motor Speedway for round 8 of the 2001 season on Saturday, July 28. The stop in the Windy City will be the one and only oval race of the 2001 series and the unique paper-clip layout of the Cicero, IL venue will pose some interesting challenges for the drivers.
In early July, the Barber Dodge test team of drivers Barry Waddell, Oswaldo Negri and Rod MacLeod and Series Engineer Louis D'Agostino along with tire engineers from Michelin conducted an advance test at the speedway. Apart from using the test to establish a baseline for the Dodge Reynard 98E racecars and test a variety of Michlein compounds, the test revealed that drivers can use a at least two different techniques to navigate the 1-mile oval that has a slight six degrees of banking. Unlike some other ovals, particularly of the high-speed variety where drivers do not shift gears and may not brake into corners, the Chicago track will require Barber Dodge drivers to do both. How much braking and shifting will be determined by each driver's style. In any case, expect the fastest drivers to produce lap times around 30 seconds and if conditions are right a pole time of 29 seconds is not unthinkable.
The last time the Barber Dodge Pro Series competed on an oval was in May of 2000 at Nazareth Speedway when the now infamous snowstorm blighted race day, sending the Champ Car teams home. The Barber Dodge drivers waited till Monday to get the race off in which Sepp Koster took his first career win leading the race from the drop of the green flag. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second in what at the time was his third professional race start and his first ever oval race.
Both drivers are heading into round 8 with considerable momentum. Hunter-Reay drove a stirring race at the last round in Toronto to take his second career victory. Koster has victories this year at Lime Rock Park and Cleveland. Hunter-Reay trails points-leader Nicolas Rondet by 4 points while Koster resides fifth with a six-point deficit to the lead. In their way will be Matt Plumb and Roger Yasukawa, both third-year veterans. Plumb lies third overall thanks to several powerhouse performances in the last four rounds. Yasukawa, fourth overall has scored points at every round this year including a career best second-place in Detroit. He finished fifth last year at Nazareth. Rondet has managed to stay ahead of the field with some solid drives but will need to get back onto the podium if he is to protect his position.
As always a new venue is likely to throw something interesting into the mix, although at Toronto it was the front-runners who ruled the proceedings. Several drivers are making their oval debuts and since those with oval experience haven't had the pleasure since the beginning of April 2000, it leaves one to wonder what the Windy City will bring.
- George Tamayo