NA-F2000: Mid-Ohio summary, champion crowned

Hildebrand Clinches the Cooper Series Title with Two More Dominant Wins Lexington, Ohio (September 17, 2006) -- Rising star J.R. Hildebrand continued his dominance of the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship by winning both of this ...

Hildebrand Clinches the Cooper Series Title with Two More Dominant Wins

Lexington, Ohio (September 17, 2006) -- Rising star J.R. Hildebrand continued his dominance of the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship by winning both of this weekend's races at the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 18-year-old from Sausalito, Calif., has now won 11 of the season's 12 races with Cape Motorsports' #2 Formotion/Spy/Mockett.com Van Diemen and has clinched the series title with two races still to be run next weekend as part of the Champ Car World Series event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

"We knocked the most wins [in a season] record out of the way and got the championship all wrapped up, so it's been another good weekend," said Hildebrand modestly.

"I don't think anybody expected us to be so dominant this season," he continued, "but that's what I had been preparing to do all through the off-season. I've had a great team behind me in Cape Motorsports and I've put a lot of hard work in behind the scenes. I've done pretty much everything I wanted to do and I hope to translate that into bigger and better things for the future."

Another teenager, Cole Morgan, from Lighthouse Point, Fla., also achieved his weekend goals, emulating Hildebrand's feat by claiming two more wins and clinching the Cooper Gold Cup crown for older Pinto-engined cars. Morgan's latest two victories -- maintaining an unbeaten streak this season -- came with a new (to him) team in St. Clair Motorsports, running Mark Defer's usual Van Diemen RF99 chassis while his own trusty Swift DB-6 was being prepared for the upcoming SCCA National Championship event in Topeka, Kan.

Saturday's 20-lap race began with Hildebrand translating his ninth pole of the season into the lead at the first corner. He soon pulled out a commanding advantage over Cape Motorsports teammate Dane Cameron (#19 Finlay Motorsports/Jim Russell School/Red Line Oil Van Diemen) and Ricardo Vassmer (#25 Meridiano Television/Santa Barbara Airlines/JDC Motorsports Van Diemen), from Caracas, Venezuela, who managed to oust the third Cape entry of Chris Meredith (#3 MII Security/Bertil Roos School/Primus Racing Van Diemen) on the opening lap.

Hildebrand was never seriously challenged, although Cameron did manage to reduce the deficit a little in the closing stages. Cameron, 17, from Sonoma, Calif , also set the fastest lap of the race to ensure himself the pole position for their Sunday encounter.

"I made a few little mistakes early in the race," admitted Cameron, "but then the car seemed to get a bit better and J.R. began to struggle a little bit. It was the first time [this season] I had pole for the second race [of the weekend], so that was pretty cool."

Vassmer finished a distant third on Saturday, followed by Potomac, Md's Meredith and Jason Byers (#28 A&B Refrigeration/St. Clair Motorsports Van Diemen), from Livonia, Mich., who thereby clinched the Cooper Masters title for drivers over 35 years of age.

Cameron led the field up to the green flag the following afternoon but was unable to prevent Hildebrand from braking deeper on the outside line into Turn One and slicing through to take the lead. Cameron gave chase before running wide over the curb on the exit of Turn Nine. The incident damaged his car's nosecone and underbody diffuser, causing him to retire to the pits.

As Hildebrand romped away to the win, fellow former Team USA Scholarship winner Slade Miller made his mark for the first time in what has been a difficult rookie season. Miller, from Edmond, Okla., made an excellent start from sixth on the grid, then fought hard all race long to hold off the attentions of Meredith and Vassmer to claim a career-best second-place finish in his family-run #10 Kechi Energy/Quantum Mechanics Van Diemen.

"They might have been a little bit faster in a couple of places," related Miller, "but I made sure I didn't make any mistakes and was able to hold them off. It's great to be on the podium for the first time."

-credit: www.cooperseries.com

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