NA-F2000: VIR Saturday qualifying notes

Howard Takes the Pole at Wet VIR as Sciuto Shines in Second Alton Va. (October 8, 2005) -- Jay Howard retained his stranglehold on the Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars by claiming his fifth pole of the season amid ...

Howard Takes the Pole at Wet VIR as Sciuto Shines in Second

Alton Va. (October 8, 2005) -- Jay Howard retained his stranglehold on the Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars by claiming his fifth pole of the season amid extremely treacherous conditions this afternoon at VIRginia International Raceway.

Howard, 24, from Basildon, Essex, England, posted the fastest lap time of 2 minutes 09.09 seconds on his eighth trip around the supremely challenging 3.27-mile road course with Aiken Racing's #1 www.newhoneys.com Van Diemen RF03., nipping impressive series debutant Alan Sciuto's #31 Napa Auto Parts/Denso/Pro Series Starters & Alternators/P-1 Racing Van Diemen RF05 by a scant 0.275 seconds.

"Pretty good," summarized Howard succinctly. "I had been looking after my tires, keeping them cool by driving through the wet parts of the track [as the circuit dried out slightly], but the last three laps I couldn't get a clear lap; there was always some traffic in the way. I still got the pole so that's good."

Sciuto, 17, from Orange, Calif., who has raced competitively this year in the Formula Dodge National Championship, the Star Mazda Series and Toyota Atlantic, took to FF2000 like a duck to water (quite literally given the wet conditions) and was pleased to secure a position on the front row of the grid for the first of two races to be held tomorrow (Sunday).

"I had traffic almost every lap except the last lap, so the last lap I really tried to hang it out," said Sciuto. "The track was really slick. It was like ice. But it worked out pretty good. For my first time in the car, I'm pretty happy with second."

Joey Foster, from Truro, Cornwall, England, emerged from the 30-minute qualifying session with the third fastest lap aboard Cape Motorsports' #3 Bradfords/BRDC/Keenpine/Woodpecker Pine Van Diemen RF01.

"It was good fun but the track was very greasy," related Foster, who currently sits second in the championship standings with two wins and four poles to his credit this season.

Robert Podlesni, 17, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., produced a fine effort in his Cooper Series debut with the same #84 Prudential California/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen RF03 with which he won three of the last four Pacific F2000 Championship races this season. Podlesni, who had struggled in the wet practice sessions earlier in the weekend, made a dramatic improvement to emerge fourth fastest and secure a position on row two of the grid.

"I'm not yet entirely comfortable with the car, like I normally am. It's all about guestimation and seat-of-the-pants, like it was at the beginning of the year," said Podlesni, who is still in his rookie season of car racing following an impressive career in karting. "I'm really happy with fourth given the competition I'm up against,"

Fellow Pacific F2000 Championship front-runner J.R. Hildebrand rounded out the top five in the #30 Napa Auto Parts/Denso/Pro Series Starters and Alternators/P-1 Racing Van Diemen RF02, while Chris Meredith, from Potomac, Md., was sixth quickest in the #79 MII Security/Comprent Motorsport Van Diemen RF02, despite running off the track early in the session and filling up his radiators with grass, which caused the engine to overheat and ultimately cut out altogether.

Craig Clawson, from Corning, N.Y., was fastest of the Cooper Gold Cup Series contenders (running the older Ford Pinto engine), posting a time of 2:17.996 in his #29 Van Diemen.

The first of two races tomorrow will take place at 11:00 AM. The fastest lap of each competitor will be used to determine the grid positions for the final race of the season, which is set for a green flag at 4:15 PM.

-www.cooperseries.com, or contact Michelle Kish on 973-575-2626.

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