Honors Even: Sciuto Takes First F2000 Win While Howard Clinches the Title in Style
Alton, Va. (October 9, 2005) -- Teenaged Californian Alan Sciuto and newly crowned series champion Jay Howard shared the honors in the final two rounds of the Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars held today at Virginia International Raceway.
Sciuto, 17, from Orange, Calif., took full advantage of a first-lap incident between Howard and British rival Joey Foster to take the lead in treacherously slick conditions this morning. Making his very first F2000 start aboard P-1 Racing's #31 Napa Auto Parts/Denso/Pro Series Starters & Alternators Van Diemen RF05, Sciuto gratefully moved into the lead after qualifying an impressive second behind Howard, then led throughout the 13-lap race around the undulating and challenging 3.27-mile road course in rural Virginia.
"I'm a little bummed out that they crashed because I think it would've been a pretty good race between me, Joey and Jay. I think we had a good enough car to race with them," reckoned Sciuto.
The youngster had his chance later in the afternoon, when he started from the pole by virtue of posting the fastest lap in the morning race. But it took the amazing Howard only three laps to move into the lead with Aiken Racing's #1 www.newhoneys.com Van Diemen RF03, and Sciuto was unable to respond.
Quite simply, Howard put on another driving clinic as he scythed from the back to the front, then controlled the proceedings to claim his ninth win in just 12 races this year. Sciuto chased hard in second place -- despite having not driven his car in dry conditions prior to the race -- while P-1 Racing teammate J.R. Hildebrand, from Sausalito, Calif., drove equally well to climb from 10th on the grid to third.
"I knew these [California] guys were going to be quick, so I had to push, push, push from the start," related Howard. "I must admit, I got there a lot quicker than I thought I would.
"It was an action-packed race," he continued, "because first of all one of my head restraints blew out, then the radio antenna blew off and finally a bunch of tape holding the bonnet in place went flying past my head. It seemed like the car was falling apart, but fortunately it all held together. It's been a great year for me and this is the perfect way to finish it off."
Sciuto was content with his second-place finish in Race 2, especially given his almost total lack of experience of driving the car in the dry.
"I just needed another dry session to get more used to the car," said the former shifter kart star. "It's hard when you go out for your first dry session and it's in the race. But it was a good race and a good weekend."
Hildebrand was equally pleased to bounce back from an incident in the first race in which he was inadvertently forced off the road while attempting to pass a slower car. He had been running a close second, hot on Sciuto's tail, at the time.
Hildebrand had another scare this afternoon when a hard-charging Foster (#3 Bradfords/BRDC/Keenpine/ Woodpecker Pine Van Diemen RF01) clattered over his right-rear wheel while trying to make a pass on lap 3. This time, fortunately, his car was largely unscathed. (Foster's, however, was not, and the Englishman's disappointing weekend once again ended with a retirement.) Hildebrand lost a couple of places but quickly claimed them back, then stormed from sixth to fourth place, which became third when early race leader Christopher Guerrieri made a mistake in Turn One.
Guerrieri, from Pickering, Ont., Canada, held on for fourth in his #11 Aiken Racing Van Diemen RF05.
Others to shine during the day included another Cooper Series debutant, Robert Podlesni. The 17-year-old from Thousand Oaks, Calif., finished a fine second in the first race with Dave Freitas Racing's #84 Prudential California Van Diemen RF03, despite being handicapped by a balky gearbox. Sadly, the transmission proved even more troublesome in the second race, so Podlesni, who had been running a good fourth, wisely pulled into the pits to save the gearbox from further damage.
Yet another rookie, Nick Boulle, from Dallas, Texas, finished a career-best third in the morning race with the #2 deBoulle Jewelry/Cape Motorsports Van Diemen RF01. Boulle couldn't match that performance in the dry but still finished a respectable eighth in the afternoon race.
A delighted Craig Clawson, from Corning, N.Y., scooped a pair of victories in the Cooper Gold Cup class, for older Pinto-engined cars. Clawson took advantage of a rare error from series veteran Bill Jordan, from Syosset, N.Y., on the final lap of the morning race, then overcame some gearbox problems before the start of the afternoon encounter to claim his second win of the day.