SEBRING, Fla. - Dan Wheldon, of England, took one step closer to the 1999 U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision title, earning the pole for Saturday's 15-lap, 55.5-mile race at Sebring International Raceway, the first half of an October SpeedFest Weekend doubleheader. Steve Rikert, of Rhinebeck, N.Y., and Andy Lally, of Northport, N.Y., completed the top-three
Driving the No. 5 Jayhard/Primus Racing Van Diemen Ford, Wheldon turned a fast lap of 2:09.209 (103.088 mph) around the 3.7-mile circuit, establishing a record for the U.S. F2000, which last competed at Sebring in 1992 on a different configuration. Wheldon can clinch the Championship with a win Saturday if his championship nemesis, Marc-Antoine Camirand, finishes eighth or worse. Camirand qualified 12th.
"I can't believe I'm on the pole actually," said Wheldon. "I flat-spotted my tires on the second lap. I feel like I let the team down because I think the car is good enough to get into the 2:08s."
With the eye of Hurricane Irene headed straight for Sebring tonight, chances of a rain race are good for Saturday.
"We learned a lot at Mid-Ohio about setup in the wet, so I think its going to be less of a guess and more of a calculated guess if it rains," continued Wheldon. "We're also going to check out the car very well before the race. This is a bumpy track and there's always a possibility of breaking."
Rikert enjoyed his best day in the series since winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July, setting the second-fastest time of 2:09.965 (102.489 mph) in the No. 4 Richard Morgan Racing Van Diemen Ford.
"I've been working with Slide Rule Racing and driver coach Mike Zimicki, and it has helped a lot this weekend," said Rikert, who sits third in points. "We brought him in to help make some setup decisions so I could focus on driving the car. This track suits me well-it's bumpy and you have to throw the car around a lot."
Lally will start third in the No. 72 Tyrolean Auto Sport Carbir Ford with a time of 2:10.151 (102.342 mph), followed by Nick Grommes, of Yorkville, Ill., and Daniel Muniz, of Costa Rica.
Starting lineup for Saturday's 15-lap, 55.5-mile U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision race, part of the October SpeedFest Weekend at Sebring International Raceway, with position, car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, class, car, fastest time and speed in miles per hour. 1. (5), Dan Wheldon (R), England, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:09.209, 103.088. 2. (4), Steve Rikert, Rhinebeck, N.Y., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:09.965, 102.489. 3. (72), Andy Lally, Northport, N.Y., F2A, Carbir Ford, 2:10.151, 102.342. 4. (83), Nick Grommes (R), Yorkville, Ill., F2A, Carbir Ford, 2:10.260, 102.257. 5. (7), Daniel Muniz (R), San Jose Costa Rica, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.275, 102.245. 6. (24), Jeff Wright (R), Ireland, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.278, 102.242. 7. (23), T.J. Bell, Sparks, Nev., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.366, 102.173. 8. (55), Piero Rodarte (R), Mexico, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.390, 102.155. 9. (36), Bryce Miller (R), Bernardsville, N.J., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.663, 101.941. 10. (13), Mark Dismore (R), Greenfield, Ind., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.794, 101.839. 11. (3), Jonathan Bottoms, Buffalo, N.Y., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:10.925, 101.737. 12. (96), Marc-Antoine Camirand, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Can., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:11.073, 101.622. 13. (19), Bobby Oergel, Fresno, Calif., F2A, Mygale Ford, 2:11.122, 101.584. 14. (40), Rolando Quintanilla, Nuevo Laredo Mexico, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:11.807, 101.056. 15. (77), Harold Primat (R), New York, N.Y., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:12.005, 100.905. 16. (66), Larry Oberto, Seattle, Wash., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:12.136, 100.805. 17. (74), Paul Kesselring (R), Sarasota, Fla., F2A, Tatuus Ford, 2:12.210, 100.748. 18. (2), Steve Butcher (R), DelRay Beach, Fla., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:12.211, 100.748. 19. (12), Guy Cosmo, South Selauket, N.Y., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:12.340, 100.649. 20. (46), J.W. Urlin (R), London, Ontario, Can., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:13.315, 99.913. 21. (71), Mike Durand (R), Wayland, Mass., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:13.535, 99.749. 22. (17), Jacek Mucha, Laval, Quebec, Can., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:13.676, 99.643. 23. (37), Dick Fairbanks, Hyannis, Mass., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:13.701, 99.625. 24. (15), David Webb, Clearwater, Fla., ACC, Swift Ford, 2:13.919, 99.463. 25. (22), Georges Forgeois (R), New York, N.Y., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:14.076, 99.346. 26. (6), Jeff Butcher (R), Boca Raton, Fla., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:14.387, 99.116. 27. (8), Alejandro Garcia, Venezuela, F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:14.850, 98.776. 28. (90), Bob Wright, Old Chatham, N.Y., F2A, Van Diemen Ford, 2:15.096, 98.596. 29. (33), Daniel Urrutia Jr. (R), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:15.559, 98.259. 30. (34), Brett Harrison (R), Everett, Wash., ACC, Van Diemen Ford, 2:17.354, 96.975.