SEBRING, FLA. (September 29, 2001)--Mike Potekhen, of Phoenix, Ariz., won Round Twelve of the U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision at Sebring International Raceway. Jason LaPoint, of Woodburn, Ore. and Piero Rodarte, of Mexico...
SEBRING, FLA. (September 29, 2001)--Mike Potekhen, of Phoenix, Ariz., won Round Twelve of the U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision at Sebring International Raceway. Jason LaPoint, of Woodburn, Ore. and Piero Rodarte, of Mexico City, Mexico, completed the top-three. Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, won the ACC class.
Under threatening clouds and humid conditions race one of the season-finale doubleheader got underway. At the start of the race the field went four cars wide into turn one of the 1.85-mile road course. By turn seven, polesitter Rodarte had established a eight-car length advantage on second place. As Rodarte braked for turn nine, at the end of the long back straight, his rear brakes locked up and he spun off course. The spin gave No. 6 Tonis Kasemets the lead. Kasemets maintained the lead until a full-course caution, on lap two for No. 81 Carl Russo and No. 85 Travis Irving off course in turn two. On the ensuing restart, Potekhen, who had moved up to second after starting fourth, and Kasemets went side-by-side down the front straight. Potekhen, driving the No. 87 P.D.R./Twinseasons.com Van Diemen Ford, took the lead entering turn one. Once past Kasemets, Potekhen began to pull away. On lap 12, Potekhen lost the three-second he had built up when a full-course caution was displayed for Kasermets and No. 69 Billy Asaro making contact while trying to avoid No. 33 Tom Dyer who spun at the end of the back straight. On the lap 17 restart, Potekhen got a great jump and was never challenged for the lead. At the checkered flag, Potekhen had won his first career race by a margin of 5.667 seconds.
"This feels great," said Potekhen, who lead 12 of the 20 laps. "Right from the green flag I knew I had a good car. As the race progressed things came my way. Once I got the lead I just put my head down and drove hard. I'm starting a little better tomorrow and hopefully I can make it two for two here at Sebring."
With the National Championship at stake, LaPoint wanted to drive a strong race, but drive smart. At the start, LaPoint in the No. 87 Infinity Motorsports/Regency Aviation/TrackMagic Van Diemen Ford, got caught out and fell back to fifth. Having had no time on a dry track LaPoint worked on the car's handling in the early stages of the race, maintaining his position. On lap 11, the three cars directly in front of him were all involved in an incident. Avoiding becoming involved, LaPoint moved into second place. On the ensuing reatrt following the full-course caution, LaPoint was unable to challenge for the lead, finishing second. This is the fifth consecutive podium finish for LaPoint, and combined with Asaro's accident gives LaPoint a 18 point lead in the championship (214-196) going into the season-finale race on Sunday.
"I think I got lucky today," said LaPoint, who won the last Round at Mid-Ohio. "This was my first session in the dry and my car wasn't as quick as some of the other cars out there today. I was driving hard and when I saw Billy [Asaro] I knew I had to try and win to score maximum points. I just didn't have anything for Mike [Potekhen]."
At the start of the race Rodarte looked to have the field covered. He got a great start and had a sizeable lead on the back straight. As he braked for turn nine he spun and went off course. Rodarte, driving the No. 55 Telmex/Sico Van Diemen Ford, rejoined in 20th place. Using the car that had captured the pole, Rodarte immediately began working his way back to the front. By the halfway mark of the 20-lap race, Rodarte was in 11th place. During the final three laps of the race he moved up from fifth to third with some spectacular passes. For his great drive Rodarte was awarded the Pi Research Hard Charger award.
"That was a wild race," said Rodarte. "When I got to back straight braking zone on the first lap I lost my reference point and went off. I knew I had a good car so I pushed for the rest of the race, and try to make the best of things. That was probably my best race ever."
Entering his first U.S. F2000 race, Imery had modest expectations art the start of the weekend. Following a heavy crash in qualifying for race two late in the day, he was unsure he'd be even racing. With a car that the crew had just finished fixing prior to the green flag, Imery fell back three spots at the start. Driving the No. 9 Cavenas/Venezlolana de Ascensores Van Diemen Ford, Imery quickly recovered moving into 14th place by lap 10. The remainder of the race Imery battled numerous cars for position, finishing 12th at the checkered, to win the ACC class in his first-ever race.
"This is a good way to start my U.S. F2000 career," said Imery. "To be honest after the crash in qualifying I didn't think I'd be racing or challenging for the class lead if I did run. The first few laps I was just wanted to make the sure car was right and then I started pushing. Hopefully tomorrow I can run a little higher and get another win."
Completing the top-five was Doug Bell, of St. Alban's, England and Memo Rojas, of Mexico City, Mexico. Alexander Figge, of Aspen, Colo., was awarded the Truechoice Drive of The Day award for his strong drive to 11th place. Scott Rubenzer, of Brookfield, Wis., was awarded the Taylor Engineering "Shark" award, after he moved up six positions in the race.