Westphal and Podlesni Take Their Pacific F2000 Title Chase to Utah Tooele, Utah (July 31, 2008) -- The battle between talented young Californians Jeff Westphal and Robert Podlesni for this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook...
Westphal and Podlesni Take Their Pacific F2000 Title Chase to Utah
Tooele, Utah (July 31, 2008) -- The battle between talented young Californians Jeff Westphal and Robert Podlesni for this year's Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires has reached a critical juncture as the protagonists head to Utah this weekend for two 30-minute events at the spectacular Miller Motorsports Park.
Four races remain -- two this weekend and two more at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. A race win is worth 30 points, with an additional two markers up for grabs to the fastest qualifier and the driver who posts the fastest race lap in each event.
Westphal, who celebrated his 22nd birthday last week, has set the pace since the beginning of the season and has won six of the eight races aboard his #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen.
Podlesni, 20, trails by only 19 points, 231 to 212, by virtue of two victories and a perfect record of eight top-five finishes in Dave Freitas Racing's #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars Van Diemen.
"With only two more weekends to go, I cannot deny that I see the title on the line," says Westphal, from San Carlos, Calif., "but I'm not going to change anything. I've taken the same view throughout my racing career: Race every race like it's the start of a brand-new season.
"I'm looking forward to the weekend," Westphal continues. "The facilities at Miller are top-notch and the track itself is great. It's fast, technical and a whole lot of fun."
Westphal struggled on his first visit to the 3.5-mile road course one year ago, claiming a fourth and a ninth from the two races. Podlesni, meanwhile, has never competed at the challenging Miller Motorsports Park -- although he was present last year as a driver coach -- and has left no stone unturned in his quest for competitiveness.
"I have been looking over data and onboard video from a number of different sources in order to best prepare for the weekend," says Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who won the Pacific F2000 title in 2006 but was unable to compete in 2007 due to a lack of funding.
"In terms of Jeff and the championship I will race as I have all year," Podlesni continues. "I don't think too much about anything but racing as best I can. I want to win this race as much as any other and will let the championship play out as it will. This weekend will be a true test of everything I've learned. I really can't wait and think the racing will be fantastic."
As usual, Westphal and Podlesni will begin the weekend as favorites to claim top honors, but they are under no illusions about the quality of their competition.
Westphal, in particular, has benefitted from an intense intra-team rivalry this season as fellow college students -- and PR1 Motorsports stable-mates -- Nick Freytag (#9 Sodi Kart/G-Phactory/PR1 Van Diemen), Max Hyatt (#22 Performance Drink Van Diemen) and Shaun Modisette (#26 Carson Trailer Van Diemen) have all become regular visitors to the podium.
"Each time we go out we want to beat each other, which drives us all to refine our skills and work that much harder," says Westphal.
"My goals for this weekend are to finish on the podium, and more importantly, to finish in front of Shaun," declares 17-year-old Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., who marked his steady improvement recently by claiming a pair of third-place finishes in the two races earlier this month in Sonoma, Calif. "Shaun and I are in a tight battle for third place (in the overall points chase). The momentum I built at Infineon Raceway has really increased my confidence in the car and in my own ability. I know I am just as fast as the leaders and I would love to earn my first win."
Aside from the talented crop of youngsters, two other drivers to keep an eye on are veteran contenders Chuck Hulse (#25 Silicon Salvage/DFR Van Diemen), from Yorba Linda, Calif., and Peter Hastrup (#5 Western Building Materials/DFR Van Diemen), from Madera, Calif. Hulse finished on he podium in Utah last year and currently holds a slender three-point lead in the Masters Series chase (open to drivers over 50 year of age).