NA-F2000: PAC: Buttonwillow rounds five, six preview

Pacific F2000 Contenders Ready for Buttonwillow Westphal, Podlesni Continue their Battle for Pacific F2000 Supremacy Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 30, 2008) -- Just five points separate the top two contenders as the Pacific F2000 Championship ...

Pacific F2000 Contenders Ready for Buttonwillow
Westphal, Podlesni Continue their Battle for Pacific F2000 Supremacy

Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 30, 2008) -- Just five points separate the top two contenders as the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires continues this weekend with a pair of half-hour races to be run in conjunction with VARA's popular British Extravaganza at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California's Central Valley.

Jeff Westphal, 21, from San Carlos, Calif., currently holds the top position by virtue of three wins from the opening four races of the season aboard the #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition Van Diemen fielded by defending champion team PR1 Motorsports.

"I have a feeling the car will be relatively good off the truck again, similar to Willow Springs [where he won twice], however nothing is ever perfect so there will definitely be some work to do," says Westphal, who has finished on the podium in seven of his last eight races dating back to September 2007. The only time he has failed to do so was in the second race of this year at California Speedway, where his front row qualifying effort was nullified by an obscure electrical glitch which restricted him to an unrepresentative 15th-place finish.

Westphal is sure to face plenty of stiff opposition, especially from 2006 series champion and Team USA Scholarship winner Robert Podlesni, who was obliged to sit out the '07 season due to a lack of funding. "Poodles" claimed his maiden victory at Buttonwillow in 2005, and in six previous starts at the 2.9-mile road course, has five wins and a 100 percent record of six poles to his credit.

"Buttonwillow is just the style of track that suits me," says Podlesni, 20, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who won the opening race of the 2008 campaign in his #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars/Dave Freitas Van Diemen. "Most all the teams use it as their primary testing facility but it's just the sort of course I seem to enjoy driving."

PR1 Motorsports teammates Shaun Modisette, 20, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and Nick Freytag, 16, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., currently are tied for third in points, while stablemate Max Hyatt, 21, from Santa Fe, N.M., lies a mere two points farther behind after experiencing mechanical misfortunes last time out at Willow Springs.

"It was a rough weekend but the team was great and I am looking forward to improving my performance," says Hyatt. "This weekend at Buttonwillow I expect a hard-fought battle between Jeff, Shaun, Nick, Robert and myself. We have all shown good speed at Buttonwillow in the past and I am sure we will all be close this weekend."

One young man who sprung a surprise last time out at Willow Springs was Nick Kodenko. The Fresno State college student finished a magnificent fourth in his family-run Van Diemen and is keen to maintain his momentum.

"We are still so pumped from that last race," exclaims Kodenko, from Santa Paula, Calif. "My dad and myself have been preparing the car all month and are ready to go."

Perhaps it will be the turn of North Hollywood veteran Chris Hundley to spring a surprise. Business and family commitments have kept the proprietor of LA-based The Limousine Connection out of the cockpit since this corresponding event one year ago, but Hundley has enjoyed success at Buttonwillow before, including a second-place finish in 2006. He is raring to go on his return at the wheel of a Dave Freitas Racing-prepared Van Diemen.

"I have the want and desire, just lack the time," says Hundley. "I miss not having the seat time required to be fast, but I will try to get up to speed with the Friday test day. Yes, I am now 50 but still think I am 24(!) and I am in it to win. Probably not too realistic but I always love a good challenge."

In addition to aspiring to the overall victory, Hundley will be vying for the top Expert award, open to drivers between the ages of 35 and 50.

There is another race within a race for the Masters contenders (aged over 51). Chuck Hulse, from Yorba Linda, Calif., claimed the honors in three of the first four races, although last time out he had to give best to Peter Hastrup, from Madera, Calif. Les Phillips, from Buttonwillow, Calif., and UK native Jeremy Shaw, who now lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., also plan on giving Hulse a run for his money.

-credit: www.pacificf2000.com

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jeremy Shaw , Chuck Hulse , Max Hyatt , Jeff Westphal