Meredith Gets a Fourth and a Third In Mid-Ohio FF2000 Action
LEXINGTON, Ohio, Sept. 17 - Chris Meredith of Potomac, Md. made grounds towards his goal of improving on his fifth-place finish in last year's point standings by placing fourth and third Saturday and Sunday, respectively, in National Auto Sport Association (NASA) Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Driving the Cape Motorsports Van Diemen RF02 No. 3 sponsored by Meredith International (MII), a security consulting firm, as well as the Bertil Roos Racing School, the 19-year-old driver qualified third for Saturday's race and finished fourth in it, and qualified fourth for Sunday's race and finished third in it. Sunday's result was the third podium finish of the year for Meredith, who has qualified in the top five for every race so far this year.
Each driver drops his two worst finishes for the final tabulations for the championship. With the drops, unofficially Meredith is fifth in the overall point standings with two more races remaining in the 14-race 2006 season. Fourth place is held by Jason Byers, who finished behind Meredith in both races this weekend.
Although J.R. Hildebrand clinched the championship on Saturday, the battle for second through fifth is very close and will be settled next weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. in the final doubleheader of the year. Those races will be support events to a Champ Car World Series headliner.
Both races at Mid-Ohio were 20-lap, 30-minute contests on the track's 2.400-mile road course. A chicane was added that made the course a bit longer than it was when the series appeared here in May, but the lap times remained similar since some curbs were also ground down, allowing the drivers to cut some corners tighter than they could in the past.
Meredith was embroiled in the best battles of both races at Mid-Ohio.
On Saturday Ricardo Vassmer got by Meredith on lap one and then they were the stars of the show, as they dueled lap after lap. Byers lay directly behind them in fifth, just waiting for a chance to pounce on either of them if their battle got out of control and they crashed, spun or bobbled.
Neither made a mistake, however, and Meredith crossed the finish line in fourth, a couple of car lengths behind Vassmer and with a healthy margin in front of Byers in the 18-car field.
"I was definitely faster than he was in some places," Meredith noted afterwards about Vassmer. "I wish they hadn't added the chicane, because every time I went into Turn One I was faster.
"My car was really good; I was pushing him as hard as I could," Meredith added. "I tried him a couple of times going into Turn Seven, but I couldn't get by him. He raced me clean though, absolutely.
"About halfway through the race I blistered my front tires and developed an understeer, and from that point on I just held on to fourth," he added. "I'm pretty happy to get the fourth-place points today."
The pressure increased on Meredith on Sunday, as in that race he was in the middle of a three-car race for second place.
He was fourth on lap one but then moved into third when polesitter Dane Cameron got off course on that lap and damaged his car's front wing. He stayed in third the rest of the way, sandwiched between Slade Miller and Vassmer, but he withstood all the pressure to end up on the podium.
He was just 0.37 of a second behind second place at the checkered.
"I think I was a tiny bit faster than Slade, but he got a better start than I did," Meredith said after the race. "We were nose to tail the whole way; it was very exciting. I had a lot to watch; I had to pay attention to Slade's gearbox and Ricardo's nose.
"I didn't have any close calls, but I had some hairy corners," he noted. "I did my best to keep the car under me. Every time I'd get close Slade would pull away a little at the next corner.
"My car was good; it was better than yesterday," he added. "The tires were dropping off a little at the end, but they kept together. Now we'll go to Elkhart Lake next week and try for another podium or maybe a win."