Podlesni Leads Pacific F2000 Contenders to VARA's Golden State Classic Fontana, Calif. (July 12, 2006) -- After a two-month hiatus, the second half of the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook will commence this weekend with a pair of...
Podlesni Leads Pacific F2000 Contenders to VARA's Golden State Classic
Fontana, Calif. (July 12, 2006) -- After a two-month hiatus, the second half of the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook will commence this weekend with a pair of 30-minute races, adding a touch of modern spice to the Vintage Auto Racing Association's Golden State Classic Presented by Camguard at California Speedway.
Formula Ford 2000 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, as well as the three most recent Indianapolis 500 winners, Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr.
Last year's Pacific F2000 Champion, Mike Forest, has stepped up into the Champ Car Atlantic Series, while 2005 runner-up J.R. Hildebrand is contesting the Cooper Tire "national" F2000 series and has confirmed his burgeoning reputation as one of this country's brightest young stars by winning nine of the first 10 races.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Robert Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who finished third in the 2005 standings as a raw rookie, has continued his impressive learning curve by winning the last four Pacific F2000 races in a row -- including two at California Speedway in March -- with the #84 Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen RF03. "Poodles" already has clinched the Pacific F2000 Spring Cup, by virtue of scoring most points from the opening six races of the season, and now has his sights set firmly on adding the overall championship to his growing resume.
"I have great hopes of locking up the championship this year, but nothing is certain or locked up," says Podlesni sagely. "I don't take anything for granite, and simply take every race and make the most of it, letting the championship play out as it will.
"In my opinion there are no great secrets in racing. DFR has consistently given me a fantastic car, and working on improving with every race has been the goal for this year."
Tim Harris is another driver to have made great strides in 2006. Harris, from Irvine, Calif., claimed his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway in February and currently lies second in the point standings after a series of strong performances in the #20 Apex Fire Systems/Mihms Truck Repair/Carson Trailer Mygale SJ05, including a pair of pole positions at California Speedway in March.
"Finding the perfect compromise of aero and mechanical grip is the key to success at California Speedway," says Harris. "The cars are so equal that maximizing their potential is a must. You cannot leave anything on the table.
"Robert is a very good driver," continues Harris, "but we have shown the speed to be able to run with him. I like our chances."
Ray Stephens Racing teammate Shaun Modisette also has leaped to the forefront in recent months. The 19-year-old from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., earned his first podium finish at Buttonwillow Raceway in May and is sure to be a front-runner in the #26 Carson Trailer, Inc. Van Diemen RF03.
Other likely contenders to victory will include another teenager, Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz., in the #7 Anglo American Road Racing/Bill Wilson Motorsports Van Diemen; Greg Minium (#12 Law Offices of Kolod-Wager/Baccarella Insurance Mygale SJ03), from Placentia, Calif.; and, providing further chassis variety, former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., who will drive the unique and steadily improving #34 Piper DF5.
"It's never easy to develop a new car from scratch, but we're making a steady progression with the car," says the accomplished Rarick, who has scored five top-10 finishes in the six races to date, topped by a fourth place at California Speedway in March. "We're starting to figure out what it likes to go fast. I'm sure I recognize the faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel."