In his rookie debut in the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship Series, Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner Craig Baltzer found himself topping the time sheets in the weekends very first official practice session. Wet conditions prevailed throughout the morning practice, placing a premium on a drivers car control abilities. This achievement becomes more impressive when you realize that this was the young rookies first time at Virginia International Raceway and only first set foot in a car with this level of performance just the previous day. Qualifying for race one was later in the day, this time in dry conditions. Baltzer again impressed onlookers in his Cape Motorsports/Van Diemen/Ford qualifying 9th out of 24 entries in his first professional formula car race with a time of 1:53.853 around the 3.27 mile road course. After taking the green flag in the first 15 lap final event, Baltzer quickly maneuvered his way through a 1st turn melee to find himself in 5th after crossing the stripe for the first lap. On the 2nd tour, Baltzer moved himself up to 4th position looking set to challenge the #86 machine of Andy Brumbaugh for 3rd. The next four laps saw Baltzer testing the 2001 Canadian Formula Ford National Champion. Baltzer looked poised to strike at any moment until missing a gear on lap six, heading into the treacherous Nascar bend. The Iowa native slid off course but was able to rejoin in 11th position, with the only damage occurring to his ego. The Decal Works/Lakefront Technologies driver didn't quit there however, as he mounted yet another charge to eventually finish in 9th, setting the 4th fastest lap of the race at 1:52.571. Bryan Sellers, Baltzer's Cape Motorsports teammate for the weekend took the race win along with the 2002 Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship Crown.
"What a learning curve! Even though I made a costly mistake today, I'm pumped with my performance! Every time I hit the track I get more comfortable with the car and learn a little bit more about the cars set-up. The podium was definitely within reach today. The Cape Motorsports team gave me an awesome car to work with and the Quicksilver Ford engine never missed a beat. I was really impressed with the grip levels that the Van Diemen chassis combined with the Avon tires generated. With a good qualifying session tomorrow and a mistake free race I am very confident I'll get another shot at the Champagne celebrations. A huge thanks to Cape Motorsports for this tremendous opportunity as well as the guys who got me on the track all year- Skip Barber Racing, Decal Works, and Lakefront Technologies."
Craig Baltzer climbed the first professional series podium of his career today by finishing a solid 3rd in the final round of the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship Series. Qualifying was held on a damp but drying track. The changing conditions kept drivers on their toes enabling many to improve on their times with every couple of laps. The final grid positions were not determined until the last lap when the #19 of J.W. Urlin stopped the clocks faster than everyone else. Also on a last lap flyer, Baltzer had his best lap of the session brewing before he was forced to take evasive action upon encountering a stationary car at the exit of a blind down hill turn. His efforts did not go to waste as he was still able to claim an impressive 6th place qualifying effort with a time of 2:08.574. Baltzer maintained his grid position off the start before taking the #55 car of Doug Prendeville to complete the first lap. In a determined effort to reach the front, Baltzer took his #4 Cape Motorsports entry up another notch with a pass on Ricardo Imery on lap three. Baltzer used the next ten laps to chase down and probe 3rd place driver J.W. Urlin for a weakness. Coming down the back straightaway Baltzer maneuvered his way past the Canadian driver to pull away to his first professional podium finish in only his 2nd attempt. Baltzer set the 3rd quickest lap of the race with a 1:51.637, and was also one of four drivers to lap quicker than the previous track record.
"I feel like I've accomplished so much today said an animated Baltzer. This has to be one of the best days I've ever had at the track. What a great feeling getting onto that podium! Yesterday I knew I had a chance at it but the mistake took me out of contention. Today though, I just put my head down, made some passes and did it. I have to give the other drivers a lot of credit, they raced me hard all weekend but completely clean. Dominic and Nicolas Cape as well as J.D., my mechanic, gave me some tremendous support and a great car. I've experienced and done so many new things this weekend. This is a very big eye opener for me, and a huge confidence boost heading into the off season. I really can't thank Cape Motorsports enough for this experience. As well as Skip Barber Racing, Decal Works, and Lakefront Technologies for all their support and belief in me, Thanks."