NA-F2000: Pacific F2000 Phoenix preview

Mike Forest Looks to Wrap Up Pacific F2000 Championship "Spring Cup" in Arizona Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 31, 2005) ---- Mike Forest has taken this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire series by...

Mike Forest Looks to Wrap Up Pacific F2000 Championship "Spring Cup" in Arizona

Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 31, 2005) ---- Mike Forest has taken this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire series by storm, winning all four races in his PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ04.

In addition to taking a commanding lead in the point standings for the 12-race season, the 23-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, also has put himself in a strong position to clinch the West Coast-based series' "Spring Cup" which will be awarded to the driver who accumulates most points from the first six races, culminating in a pair of events this weekend at the combined oval/road course at Phoenix International Raceway.

"That would be a nice bonus," says Forest. "Our goal this year is to win the overall championship, but if we can get two more wins this weekend and wrap up the Spring Cup, that will give us good momentum as we head into the mid-season break."

The Spring Cup is a unique concept introduced this year by series promoter Les Phillips as a means of injecting a little extra interest for the drivers.

"It's worked well," says Phillips, who also serves as general manager of Buttonwillow Raceway Park, situated near Bakersfield, California. "The Spring Cup hasn't necessarily drawn any more participants this year, but I think it will have an impact next year because people on the East Coast are beginning to realize this is a good series, and hopefully they will get their teams finalized a little bit sooner and be able to come and join us."

The growth of the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire also has enabled Phillips to increase the prize fund this weekend from the regular $6,000 to $8,000.

"The series is building very well," says Phillips. "The enthusiasm of our competitors and the level of participation has been great. We're expecting at least 24 cars this weekend, which means we'll have averaged 27 entries from our first three events. We have a great group of people which makes it so enjoyable for everyone."

Forest will inevitably arrive in Phoenix as a favorite for victory, but he does not expect an easy time.

"The field is pretty tight," says the Canadian, who recently completed his course at the University of Alberta, where he majored in finance. "At the last round in Las Vegas, the top 12 cars were covered by one second [in lap times], so I'm sure it will be the same in Phoenix. I'm expecting it to be real close again."

Forest's primary rivals will include PR1 Motorsports teammate J.R. Hildebrand, who has finished second on three occasions already this year. The 17-year-old high school student from Sausalito, California, won last year's SCCA Formula Russell Championship Presented by Yokohama and is eager for his first win since graduating into the professional ranks.

Other top contenders will include Irvine, California's Tim Harris, who has earned a pair of podium finishes this year with Ray Stephens Racing's Home Loans 4 USA/Mihms Truck Repair Van Diemen RF03, and Brea, California's John Lombardo Jr., who took P1 Racing's Napa Auto Parts/Denso Van Diemen RF02 to third place in the 2004 title-chase.

A strong contingent of local drivers will be headed by 17-year-old student Chris Spreitzer, who has made rapid progress in his first full season out of karts. Spreitzer will drive a Van Diemen for veteran Bill Wilson's BWM team. Paul Marciano Jr. and Ted Guenther also hail from the Phoenix area.

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 1,190 lbs, employ "slick" (treadless) Cooper Zeon 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.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Dan Wheldon , Mike Forest , Sam Hornish Jr.