NA-F2000: Pacific F2000: Willow Springs preview

Pacific F2000 Contenders Ready to Take on Willow Springs Challenge Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 27, 2007) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires will continue this weekend with a pair of races as part of the VARA High Desert...

Pacific F2000 Contenders Ready to Take on Willow Springs Challenge

Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 27, 2007) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires will continue this weekend with a pair of races as part of the VARA High Desert Challenge at the fast and challenging Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif.

This will mark the first time in its four-year history that the Pacific F2000 series has visited Willow Springs. But the venerable 2.5-mile road course, which is situated on the edge of the Mojave Desert and first opened in 1953, holds the honor of hosting the first-ever U.S. professional F2000 race, sanctioned by USAC, back in 1990.

Les Phillips, who now organizes the Pacific F2000 series, was among the competitors that day. So, too, was Madera, Calif.'s Peter Hastrup, who, at the age of 57, continues to give the youngsters a good run for their money and will drive the #5 Western Building Materials Van Diemen for defending series champion team Dave Freitas Racing.

"I did the first two or three USAC races but I haven't been there since, so it's been a long time. All I remember is that it is a very fast track, so the key is to trim out the car as much as you can [keeping the downforce levels low] and still make sure it handles well," says Hastrup, who finished seventh in the first-ever F2000 race at the wheel of the unique and unloved Talon SF89. "I know I'm not very likely to win, but the joy of racing for me these days is to be running against all the kids and keeping them on their toes."

Hastrup will contest the "Masters" division this weekend, for drivers aged 51 and older, but will still go wheel-to-wheel with a host of talented teenagers who are on their way up the racing ladder.

Following the first two races at California Speedway earlier this month, the championship lead is held jointly by 17-year-old Patrick Barrett, from Los Osos, Calif., and 19-year-old Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz. The pair each scored a win and a second-place finish, and both are anxious to do just as well -- if not better -- at Willow Springs.

"I expect the momentum to carry into this weekend," says Barrett, who will drive the #3 Jim Russell Racing Schools/Alpinestars Van Diemen for 2005 championship-winning team PR1 Motorsports. Still, he remains under no illusions: "The Pacific F2000 series is really competitive. The racing is very close and the teams have stepped up their game from last year. The championship will be very tight."

"We had high expectations at California Speedway and we fulfilled them, so I was really pleased," says Spreitzer, driver of the #7 BWM Engineering/Anglo American Racing Van Diemen. "I haven't been to Willow [Springs] before, but we have a test day there on Friday so we'll take it from there."

Others potential front-runners among the deep field will include 19-year-old Shaun Modisette (#26 Carson Trailer/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen), from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., who has experience of the track in a variety of vintage cars; former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick (#34 Red Line Oil/Hertfelder Motorsports Piper DS5), from Santa Monica, Calif.; ex-karting standout Mitchell Cunningham, from Auckland, New Zealand, who set the fastest race lap in the first Fontana race -- his first-ever car race -- aboard another Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen; California Speedway pole-winner Jeff Westphal (#39 MCGC/DG Flooring/Team G.FRO Van Diemen), from San Carlos, Calif.; and 15-year-old Nicky Freytag, from Phoenix, Ariz., who stunned the regulars by finishing second in one of the races at Fontana and then setting fastest race lap in the other aboard Bill Wilson's #9 BWM Engineering Van Diemen.

"That was a really fun weekend," says Freytag. "We did a lot of testing over the winter and we were definitely expecting to be in the top 10, but to be on the podium was very exciting. It's given me a lot of confidence. I'm aiming to be on the podium again, and hopefully even get a win...."

F2000 represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel auto racing ladder in North America and has provided the launching pad for the careers of many top racers, including Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, and Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr.

-credit: js

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Patrick Barrett , Sam Hornish Jr.