NA-F2000: Pacific F2000: Las Vegas preview

Pacific F2000 Championship's Own "March Madness" Set To Hit Las Vegas Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 13, 2005) ---- While millions of college basketball fans around the nation will be focusing this week on the opening rounds of the 2005 NCAA ...

Pacific F2000 Championship's Own "March Madness" Set To Hit Las Vegas

Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 13, 2005) ---- While millions of college basketball fans around the nation will be focusing this week on the opening rounds of the 2005 NCAA Basketball Tournament -- aka "March Madness" -- and more than 135,000 people are expected to gather in Las Vegas for the world-renowned CONEXPO/CONAGG Convention (showcasing the latest construction equipment, services and technologies), a more select group of race car drivers also will be visiting "Sin City" for the second round of the West Coast-based Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire.

A strong field of 25 cars is expected for the event, which be held on the road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in conjunction with the Vintage Auto Racing Association (VARA) Silver State Formula Festival Presented by Trench Shoring. Two 30-minute races will be held, one apiece on Saturday and Sunday. Spectator admission for the weekend costs just $10.

The majority of competitors will hail from California, but other leading contenders will be traveling from as far afield as New York, Cincinnati and Edmonton, Canada.

Canada's Mike Forest will head the field after guiding his PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ04 to victory in both of the opening two races at California Speedway in Fontana in January. Forest, who has recently completed his studies at the University of Alberta, majoring in finance, is eager to extend his championship lead.

"The fact that we won at Fontana doesn't change a thing," says Forest, who is currently in the process of moving to California to concentrate on his auto racing ambitions. "We're only two races into the season so you have to score as many points as possible each weekend. Qualifying will be especially important this weekend because it's tough to pass on the Las Vegas track, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Two PR1 Motorsports teammates, defending series champion Brad Jaeger, from Cincinnati, Ohio, and rookie J.R. Hildebrand, from Sausalito, Calif., who finished second in both races in his F2000 debut at Fontana, are likely to feature among Forest's closest challengers. Both feel confident of success.

"I really like the track," says Jaeger, 19, who won one of the two races at LVMS last season en route to the series title. "It has some really fast, sweeping corners and some really tight corners. It's a good mix; it has everything; it's a fun track."

Hildebrand, 17, the winner of last year's SCCA Formula Russell Championship Presented by Yokohama, has not previously raced at Las Vegas but did gain some experience recently with a visit to the Derek Daly Academy, and says he is ready to continue his rapid progress.

"I learned a lot at Fontana and we had a good test last week at Infineon Raceway," says the high school student. "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in the car now and gaining in confidence. I'm also beginning to understand the car better, so I'm looking to forward to the weekend."

Also among the list of top contenders will be reigning SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., and Irvine, Calif.'s Tim Harris, who finished third and fourth in the opening two races of the season and currently lies third in the point standings. Both will drive Van Diemen chassis.

"We had some good momentum from Fontana, so we're looking to build on that this weekend," said Harris, who drives the Home Loans 4 USA/Mihms Truck Repair/Tim Stephens Racing Van Diemen RF03. "We tested last week at Buttonwillow (Calif.) and we learned some more about the car, so we're feeling pretty well prepared and going to Las Vegas with some confidence."

The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire features modern, purpose-built, single-seat, open-wheel race cars powered by either four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engines or the slightly older, carbureted, 2.0-liter Ford "Pinto" engines, both of which produce around 150 horsepower. The cars weigh in at just 1190 lbs, employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper racing tires and are capable of speeds in excess of 140mph.

Past F2000 graduates include 1996 Champ Car World Series champion Jimmy Vasser, two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and 2005 IRL season-opening race winner Dan Wheldon.

-jeremy shaw-

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