A Hard Fought Cooper Tire Top-Five Finish for Doug Smith
Lexington, OH., May 25, 2005 -- Doug Smith took his first top-five finish of the young 2005 season at the Cooper Tires Championship Formula Ford Zetec rounds three and four at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Plantation, Florida-resident encountered a variety of conditions, the competition and even some of the local wildlife on his way to two top-ten finishes in the two thirty minute races. Smith, aided by his sponsors, Packers of Indian River LTD/wirewheel.com/Race-Sport.net, gave GTP Motorsports and engineer/ team manager Glenn Phillips (Candia, N.H.) two strong finishes, a ninth-place on Saturday and a fifth-place on Sunday.
Smith's week began on Wednesday with a Cooper Tires Series test day in which the GTP Motorsports entry turned almost 85 continuous laps around the famed Ohio circuit. The open wheel car was quick right out of "the box" and easy to handle, thanks to the great crew. Except for one minor off-course excursion and lazy spin to miss a large, fury, groundhog that had decided to take up residence in the middle of the racing line, the day went without incident. This local "track resident" escaped without harm.
Qualifying for the first race found Doug's Ford Zetec-powered racer ninth on the grid for the first race of the weekend. A mere four-tenths of a second separated the third through tenth-place positions in qualifying order for race one. Doug would hold that position throughout the race, and, based on his lap times from the first race would again line up in the ninth position for race two. With rain falling on and off in the hours leading up to the green flag for the Sunday afternoon event, Smith made the daring decision to start the sprint race on Coopers' racing slick while others went with the rain tire. The decision was a challenge early in the going as Smith fought his way around the wet course on the slick tires. However, his choice proved to be best as the racing line began to dry allowing him to go on the attack. He quickly closed the gap on the competition and gained four spots from his grid position to finish fifth before the checkered flag closed the weekend. This top-five finish marked Doug's personal best in the 2005 Cooper Tire Series season and solidified his commitment in the championship point chase.
Doug Smith: "The whole GTP team had a good week at Mid-Ohio. My finishing ninth in Saturday's race was a little disappointing for us, but it was about as good as I could hope for considering we had a bit of an understeer issue during the race. We tried some changes with the setup for qualifying; let's just say it didn't work as well as we hoped. Due to this issue, the left front tire got over-heated during qualifying. Within our rules, we must start on the tires that we qualify with. Enough said about that. Sunday's race was a guessing game with the weather. It rained off and on for the hours leading up to the start, leaving us in a quandary on what to do for tires. I ended up starting the race on slicks which, thankfully, proved to be the right choice. As the race unfolded the line began to dry and I was able to work my way through the competition up to the fifth-place finishing position. I'm extremely happy with a top-five. Car and driver are becoming "one" with all the seat time that we've been getting and I'm really looking forward to getting back in the car at Cleveland. I'd like to thank wirewheel.com, race-sport.net, Packers of Indian River, Annes and Associates, and Panoz Racing School for their continued support."
Smith will return with his No. 35 Van Diemen Ford to Ohio for the next round of the championship as the Cooper Series joins the ChampCar Series at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport on June 25 and 26th.