Hildebrand Extends Points Lead; Byers And Morgan Also Claim Two Wins at Mid-Ohio Lexington, Ohio (May 22, 2006) -- J.R. Hildebrand's dominance of the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship continued this past weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports...
Hildebrand Extends Points Lead; Byers And Morgan Also Claim Two Wins at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, Ohio (May 22, 2006) -- J.R. Hildebrand's dominance of the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship continued this past weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 18-year-old rising star from Sausalito, Calif., qualified his #2 Formotion/Spy Optics/Mockett.com/Cape Motorsports Van Diemen RF05 on the pole and was never seriously challenged during either of the two 30-minute races.
Jason Byers, from Livonia, Mich., enjoyed a pair of runner-up finishes in the #28 A&B Refrigeration/St. Clair Motorsports Van Diemen, and was comfortably on top in the Cooper Masters category (for drivers over 35 years of age).
Teenager Cole Morgan, from Lighthouse Point, Fla., took another clean sweep in the Cooper Gold Cup class (for older Pinto-engined cars) with his trusty #11 Morgan Homes/Lee Racing/10-Tenths Motorsports Swift DB-6.
As had been the case in the season-opening pair of races one week earlier at Road Atlanta, Hildebrand was the man to beat from the moment the 28 FF2000 cars rolled out onto the recently repaved 2.258-mile road course. And his task was eased within a few moments of the start of Saturday's race when the second- and third-fastest qualifiers, Cape Motorsports teammates Dane Cameron (#19 Finlay Motorsports/Jim Russell Racing School/Red Line Oil Van Diemen) and Chris Meredith (#3 MII Security/Bertil Roos Racing School/Primus Racing Van Diemen), tangled in the Esses. Cameron was out on the spot, as were Slade Miller, who had qualified a strong fifth in the #16 Kechi Energy/Quantum Mechanics Van Diemen, and Doug Kniffin (#13 Greisiger Motorsports Van Diemen).
Meredith held onto second at the restart but could do nothing about Hildebrand, who romped away to secure his third consecutive victory by more than 13 seconds.
Byers executed a fine move to pass Meredith for second with just a couple of laps remaining. Meredith held on for third ahead of Nick Haye, who made a welcome return to the Cooper Series in a JDC Motorsports Van Diemen, and Englishman Dominik Jackson, who was the best-placed of the three G.FRO teammates in fifth.
The starting grid for Sunday's race was determined according to each driver's fastest lap set during the opening encounter. Hildebrand once again started from the pole with Byers alongside on the front row.
Hildebrand made another exemplary start and went on to maintain his unbeaten record this season.
"The team did an awesome job this weekend," he related. "The car was perfect so we were able to focus on race tactics. The rest of the season is anybody's bet; some of the teams struggled here [with the new pavement] that I know will be tough at other places. We just need to keep improving so we'll be ready when they get faster."
Byers chased gamely in second but was unable to catch the flying Californian: "It was a good weekend for me but I would have liked the gap [to Hildebrand] to have been a little closer. J.R's car was working well, his tires came up to temperature quicker and he was a little bit faster everywhere. He did a good job."
The star of the race, meanwhile, was Cameron, who fought his way from 26th on the grid to third, finishing hard on the heels of Byers.
"The car was really good and the Cape Motorsports team did a terrific job," said Cameron. "They were here until 2 a.m. fixing the damage from the first race. It's always awesome to start at the front and run well, but it was a lot of fun to come from the back and pass all of those cars."
New Zealander Andy Knight (#33 NAPA/G.FRO Van Diemen) took fourth after a race-long battle with Haye and JDC Motorsports teammate Noah Bystrom.
Four wins from four starts have taken Hildebrand into a commanding lead in the points table, 127 to 74 over Cameron. Byers and Knight both have 70 points to their credit.
The Cooper Tires FF2000 Championship will continue with two more races at Portland International Raceway, in Portland, Ore., June 16-18 in support of the Champ Car World Series.