NA-F2000: Morioka Mid-Ohio preview

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com A Determined Morioka Enters Mid-Ohio Just Two Points Out of Lead LEXINGTON, Ohio, Aug. 1 - "Determined" is the best adjective to describe Zak Morioka and the Hayes ...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, lindamansfield@CompuServe.com

A Determined Morioka Enters Mid-Ohio Just Two Points Out of Lead

LEXINGTON, Ohio, Aug. 1 - "Determined" is the best adjective to describe Zak Morioka and the Hayes Motorsports team heading into Round 10 of the 12-race U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series. Morioka and his Kentucky Fried Chicken of Brazil/A.M.E. Sports Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford No. 27 are only two points out of the point lead going into Round 10, which will be held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course here on Saturday, Aug. 9.

Points are a precious commodity as the series draws closer to its season finale, a doubleheader at Watkins Glen, N.Y., on Aug. 23-24. There have been no repeat winners in the series so far this year. Morioka is one of nine race winners to date, and the point race is entirely too close to call.

Incredibly, the top 18 drivers, including Morioka, still have a mathematical chance to win the title. In addition, the top seven could leave Mid-Ohio with the points lead. Buddy Rice leads with 136 points going into the VGX Brake Pads race at Mid-Ohio followed by Morioka with 134. Duncan Dayton and Ryan Hampton are tied for third with 119. Andy Lally rounds out the top five with 118. Matt Sielsky and Luciano Zangirolami are tied for sixth with 111 points. Over 50 drivers are expected to enter the Mid-Ohio race, so anything could and probably will happen.

Morioka has already won one important award this year in the U.S. FF2000 series: the prestigious Oval Crown Championship. This award is given to the driver who earns the most points in the series' five oval-track races, and Morioka wrapped that up on July 26 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Now the 18-year-old Brazilian, who resides in Miami during the racing season, returns to his road-racing roots. "You never know what's going to happen in racing, but I think I can win at both Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen," said Morioka, who at 5'3" and 120 lbs. is one of the smallest drivers in the series as well as one of the youngest.

"My highest finish in the series last year was a fourth at Mid-Ohio," he noted. "Last year at Watkins Glen I was involved in an accident in the first race, but I was running third in the second race before my rain tires gave out when the track started to dry out. I still ended up seventh in that race. The point race is so close, no one can predict what will happen. It's like starting all over again like we did at the beginning of the year. But I have confidence in my crew and in my car, so we'll all just work very hard, try our best and see what happens."

The tentative Mid-Ohio schedule shows a test day on Thursday, Aug. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. A half-hour practice session at 8:15 a.m. starts the day on Friday, Aug. 8, with the first round of qualifying at 1 p.m. On race day, Saturday, Aug. 9, the early birds can watch the second round of qualifying at 7:30 a.m., while the 20-lap race around the 2.25-mile circuit is scheduled to get the green flag at 3:30 p.m. later that day.

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Andy Lally , Buddy Rice , Ryan Hampton