(Lakeville, CT.) May 28-The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race at the famed Milwaukee Mile for the first time in the 18-year history of the Series as round three of the ten-race championship gets underway in West Allis, Wisconsin this weekend.
(Lakeville, CT.) May 28-The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race at the famed Milwaukee Mile for the first time in the 18-year history of the Series as round three of the ten-race championship gets underway in West Allis, Wisconsin this weekend. Driving identically prepared Dodge-powered Reynards equipped with Michelin Pilot SX tires, the field should spawn some exciting and close racing in the intense quest for the $100,000 Season Championship top-prize and the over $1 million total purse. Michelin is providing a specially developed oval specification tire for the weekend, and is the only oval tire that Michelin makes world wide, underscoring the commitment that Michelin makes as a partner of the Barber Dodge Pro Series.
The Milwaukee race will be the first oval race for the Barber Dodge Pro Series since 2001, when the Pro Series raced at Chicago Motor Speedway. The field for that 2001 race included current Champ Car World Series rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay as well as Indy Racing League rookie Roger Yasukawa.
Leo Maia of Oakland, California leads the 2003 championship points battle by ten points over Mexico's Memo Rojas after Maia scored a win in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, and backed that performance up with a second place finish at the second round in Monterrey, Mexico. Maia has one goal for the Milwaukee weekend, to keep building on his points lead in his bid to secure the championship, and has no intention of just cruising for points.
"My approach to the weekend is the same no matter where I am in the championship, I want to leave here with a win," says Maia. "If I can't do that, I want to get as many points as possible and drive a smart race. This should be a great weekend, since its always fun to learn a new track, and it will be even more fun here on the oval." The oval experience will be a new one for most of the field, as very few of the drivers have raced on left-turn-only circuits. Tom Hessert of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, who has a lot of laps under his belt running in the USAC Midget class, and Memo Rojas, who raced in the Zetec F2000 championship, are the two exceptions in the field, and Rojas is hoping to turn that into an advantage.
"I am glad its not my first time on the oval like most of the guys, but I am still going to have to learn how to get around this track fastest in the Barber Dodge car just like everyone else," says Memo Rojas, who has two third-place finishes to his credit so far in the 2003 season.
Second-round race winner from David Martinez, who hails from Monterrey, Mexico, has returned to Milwaukee to try and extend his win streak and is looking forward to getting some oval miles under his belt.
"I haven't really raced much on the ovals," said Martinez. "I did drive some ovals in Mexico, but nothing at all like this. It should be a lot of fun out there since the cars are so evenly matched."
A special drivers meeting will take place in advance of this weekends race to provide coaching for the Barber Dodge racers as they take on the Milwaukee Mile with Champ Car Chief Steward Chris Kneifel, Champ Car driver and Barber Dodge Pro Series graduate Ryan Hunter-Reay on hand to provide advice to the field.
Steve Welk, who comes from the Formula Ford 2000 and Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow ranks, will make his Barber Dodge Pro Series debut this weekend, and David Wieringa, who raced last season in the Toyota Atlantic Championship will be rejoining the Barber Dodge Pro Series for the Milwaukee weekend.
Welk, 20, has lived in the Milwaukee area his whole life, jumped at the chance to race in his hometown.
" I have grown up watching races at 'the Mile' and when I heard that the Barber Dodge Pro Series was going to run here I knew I wanted to race," said Welk. "It is such a historic racetrack, and to now get to drive on it I am thrilled to say the least!"
Eight of the entered field hail from the United States, with the remainder of the field providing representation from all parts of the globe as the Pro Series has once again attracted international attention and participation. David Martinez , Memo Rojas, German Quiroga, and Luis Pelayo will fly Mexico's colors this weekend, with Antoine Bessette, Dan Di Leo, Chris Green, Mike Richardson, and Josh Beaulieu representing Canada. The Pro Series will race in Canada three times this season, and will race in Mexico for the first time at the Monterrey Grand Prix along with the Champ Car World Series in March. Shinji Kashima will make the long trip over from Tokyo, Japan for the race, and Victor Gonzalez of Hatoray, Puerto Rico, and Nelson Phillipe of Valence, France round out the contingent of international competitors taking part in the season.
The first three rounds of the 2003 championship are new venues for the Barber Dodge Pro Series as the Series is running its entire schedule in support of Champ Car events for the first time in Series history.