NA-F2000: Morioka press release

For more information: Linda Mansfield, 75534.2635@CompuServe.com Zak Morioka: A Young Racer With Heart PHOENIX, March 14 - Win or lose, when young Zak Morioka returns home to Sao Paulo, Brazil after next weekend's races at Phoenix Int'l ...

For more information: Linda Mansfield, 75534.2635@CompuServe.com

Zak Morioka: A Young Racer With Heart

PHOENIX, March 14 - Win or lose, when young Zak Morioka returns home to Sao Paulo, Brazil after next weekend's races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, he'll be greeted warmly by eight bouncing chihauhuas, who don't know a checkered flag from a green one.

A Yorkshire terrier, an Amazon parrot and about 2,000 Oriental carp are included in the roster of pets at the Morioka residence, where the 18-year-old driver lives when he isn't at his home-away-from-home in Miami or on the road competing in U.S. Formula Ford 2000 events.

Morioka has a kind heart. "We got a pair of chihauhuas, and when they had babies, I just couldn't break up the family," he notes. "They were so happy together."

Morioka (pronounced More-e-O-ka) isn't very different from American teenage boys. He likes rock music, fast food and fast cars, only in his case his fast car doesn't burn rubber in the high school parking lot, but rather races around some of America's fastest speedways. It's a 1997 Van Diemen Quicksilver Ford, No. 27. It is sponsored by Kentucky Fried Chicken and A.M.E. Sports, and is prepared by Hayes Motorsports of Aurora, Colo.

Although he's competing against drivers two- and even three-times his age, Morioka is off to a great start in his third season of U.S. FF2000 competition. He wants to be a professional race car driver, and he's chosen to race in America because he feels it offers the best races, the best race tracks, and the stiffest competition in the world.

"To be the best, you have to race against the best," he vows.

Morioka is fifth in the overall point standings heading into the third of 12 races in the 1997 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 championship. The race will be held next Sunday, March 23, on the 1-mile oval at Phoenix Int'l Raceway as a support event to the Indy Racing League's Phoenix 200.

Next month he'll be back at Phoenix, competing in a U.S. FF2000 doubleheader April 19-20 on the track's 1.51-mile road course.

Morioka was 11th in the final U.S. FF2000 point standings last year, and 16th in his rookie season. The U.S. FF2000 series is the United States Auto Club (USAC)'s official training ground series for future Indy car stars.

Morioka will take to the track in an open test session on Thursday, March 20 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The first official practice session for the division is scheduled for Friday morning, March 21, from 9:45 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. Another practice session will be held that afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 1:55 p.m.

The top 20 qualifying positions will be determined in time trials on Saturday, March 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Starting positions 21-34 will be firmed up at the conclusion of a 20-lap consolation race from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. that day.

On race day, Sunday, March 23, a 15-minute warm-up will be held at 10:45 a.m., and Morioka's 50-lap, 50-mile U.S. FF2000 race is scheduled to get the green flag at noon. The Indy Racing League's Phoenix 200 will start at 2 p.m.

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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