Baltzer and Welk win SSCA Pro Racing/WKA Constructors Championship Driver Shootout.
Drivers claim fully-funded rides in Formula SCCA North American Championship.
TOPEKA, Kan. (December 18, 2002) -- Craig Baltzer and Steve Welk out dueled three other drivers from the 2002 SCCA Pro Racing/WKA Constructors Championship to claim two fully-funded rides in the new Formula SCCA North American Championship for 2003.
Inviting the top five drivers in the 2002 Constructors Championship point standings to Roebling Road Raceway, in Savannah, Ga., the two-day shootout included a test day on Monday and two separate shootouts on Tuesday, all held in 2002-spec Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship cars provided by Cape Motorsports. The drivers in the shootout were awarded points based upon two on-track criteria, with 60 percent based on fastest lap and the other 40 percent for consistency over the course of their run. The drivers in the shootout were also told that dropping four wheels off course would end their run and disqualify them from the shootout, forcing them to not only consistently put in quick times but also not put a wheel wrong.
ICC Class Champion Baltzer went out first in his head-to-head shootout with ICA Class Champion Welk. After putting in the best times of the group during his 30-minute session Monday, Baltzer improved his time by two seconds with a 1:05.77 on new tires, averaging 1:05.94 over eight laps. Welk then went out on new tires and also improved his times from Monday by running a fast lap of 1:06.52, averaging 1:06.86 for his run.
"Those were the hardest eight laps I've run," said Baltzer, who was only four tenths off the best time put in by 2002 Zetec Championship Runner-Up and Rookie of the Year Jeffrey Jones during a multi-day test with Cape Motorsports. "Steve [Welk] and I were putting in qualifying lap times out there, but we had to focus on never putting a wheel wrong or risk being disqualified from the shootout.
"Since we went out on stickers, I wasn't sure what it was going to take to win. Once Steve put in four or five laps, I was finally able to relax."
For the second shootout, Welk joined Alan Adams, Michael Bailliez and Adam Pecorari, with each putting in 10-lap runs.
Bailliez drew the first attempt in a blind draw and went out after the lunch break, putting in a quick time of 1:09.24, with a 1:10.21 average.
"That was a blast," said Bailliez, 27. "Regardless of what happens in the shootout, the Zetec car is a lot of fun to drive. I'd love have been able to test the car all day on Monday."
Adams, a 16 year-old driver who had never driven a formula car before the Monday test day, went out second and impressed everyone by cutting four seconds off his Monday times. His fast lap was a 1:10.09 and his ten-lap average was 1:11.593.
"After doing this, I definitely don't want to go back to just running karts," said Adams.
Pecorari, who was Welk's biggest challenger in ICA competition this season, went out next in the Zetec car. Only able to run seven laps on Monday after having a major off-course excursion, Pecorari put together a fast lap of 1:07.55, averaging 1:07.71 over the ten-lap run.
"This shootout is a great opportunity for young drivers," said Pecorari, 18, of Aston, Pa. "Once it was announced that Constructors Championship drivers were going to get this test, I knew that I had to be here."
Having had much of the afternoon to reflect on his first run, Welk was the final driver to head out on the nine-turn, two-mile road course, putting in a fast lap of 1:07.45, averaging 1:07.72 on his 10-lap run.
"I was surprisingly calm before the second shootout," said Welk. "After the earlier run, I knew that I had the speeds. I was very comfortable in the car, almost too comfortable on the last two laps, and it nearly cost me."
With all four runs complete, the scores were tallied, with Pecorari and Welk coming out dead even in points, forcing officials to use the second fastest lap tie-breaker that was established prior to the event. With a second fastest lap of 1:07.50, Welk was awarded the second fully-funded ride by five hundredths of a second over Pecorari's 1:07.55.
"Having lost out in two previous driver shootouts, I was really hoping that the third time would be the charm," said Welk. "I knew it was going to be close when I pulled in the pits following my run, but I didn't think it was going to be that close."
"This has been the fairest and best run shootout that I have participated in," said Baltzer, 18. "I'd like to thank SCCA, WKA and Cape Motorsports for putting on such a great event. Since we all ran the same car, one at a time, it gave us each an equal opportunity to perform."
"I've been very impressed by each of the drivers here today," said Mitch Wright, SCCA Pro Racing Vice President and General Manager. "On only 30 minutes of practice, they each hustled the car around a very fast circuit and didn't put a wheel wrong all day. They can each leave here proud of their performance.
"This shootout just proves what we have been saying all season in the Constructors Championship -- that these drivers can do well in both cars and karts."
The four non-winning shootout drivers do not leave Savannah empty handed though, each receiving a three-day Jim Russell Racing School program.
For Baltzer and Welk, friends who have been racing together and against each other for the last seven years, they will take the next step in their careers as teammates, challenging for the championship in the Formula SCCA North American Championship, featuring SCCA Enterprises' new Van Diemen formula car.
For more information on the 2003 Constructors Championship, please visit www.sccapro.com/constructors.
-scca pro racing-