Meredith Accomplishes His Goal And Finishes Fifth in FF Zetec Championship
POTOMAC, Md., Oct. 11 - Chris Meredith overcame adverse conditions at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) to finish in the top 10 in the final two rounds of the Formula Ford Zetec Cooper Tire Championship Series last Sunday. Entering VIR seventh in the championship standings, Meredith earned 31 points in the last two races, allowing the18-year-old rookie from Potomac, Md. to claim fifth place in the championship for the 2005 season.
"We were able to meet our goals for the season," said Meredith, the highest-placing American rookie. "I wanted to learn about the car, learn about driving the car, and finish in the top five in the championship."
Unforgiving and challenging, the three long straightaways at the 3.27-mile VIR allow the southern Virginia track to produce some of highest speeds in the championship series. Race day at VIR dawned dark and overcast, with continued showers producing a slick and treacherous circuit for Sunday morning's penultimate round of the championship.
After qualifying sixth for the final two rounds, Meredith quickly moved into third place in the first race, where he pressured eventual race winner Alan Sciuto and J.R. Hildebrand for the victory. "We decided to run a half-dry and half-wet setup in case the track started to dry," said Meredith. "Those guys were running a full-wet setup, and that made it easier for them to open up a gap."
An intense battle lasting several laps with fourth-place starter Robert Podlesni ensued before Podlesni moved into second place. "We swapped positions several times," said Meredith. Once in fourth place, Meredith kept within striking distance of the leaders, finishing 18 seconds ahead of Nick Haye, who placed fifth.
In the final round of the championship Meredith quickly picked up two positions from his sixth-place starting spot but then he became involved in an incident with Joey Foster, dropping him to tenth. Foster, who started from the back of the grid, "ran into my left sidepod, forcing me off the track," Meredith said. He was able to keep the car under control and returned to the track in tenth place.
Once back on the track, Meredith noticed his engine water temperature was starting to rise. "My radiators became packed with mud when I went off course and the engine began to overheat," he explained.
Although changing to a full-dry setup for the second race of the day proved fruitful, the overheating engine hampered performance. "The car was set up well for the second race. It was really fast in the corners," Meredith noted.
Faced with the rising engine temperature, Meredith was forced to slow down on the long straightaways to keep the engine from expiring. Like a true professional, Meredith was able to bring the car home on the lead lap in ninth place.
Asked to identify a high point of the season, Meredith responded, "It was the whole season, really. Obviously there are going to be highs and lows, but we started the season well and ended the season well. I would like to thank my mechanic, Brian Medlin; my engineer, Terry Jinks; Kevin Kloepfer, who owns Comprent Motor Sports; Andrew Prendeville, my driver coach this season; and Steve Dreizler, for adding his expertise at the VIR races. Our mindset was to finish the championship in the top five, and we accomplished that goal."
While plans for the 2006 season have yet to be finalized, Meredith feels he has gained invaluable experience regarding the car, working with engineers and driving the car. As for the coming year, Meredith said confidently, "I've gained enough experience to contend for the championship next season."
For more information, see Meredith's Web site at chrismeredithracing.com; the team's Web site at comprent.net and the series' Web site at cooperseries.com.