Barber Dodge Lands at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport Cleveland(June 24, 1999)--Defending Barber Dodge Pro Series champion Jeff Simmons found a way through a first-turn melee that involved more than half of the first four rows of the grid...
Barber Dodge Lands at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport
Cleveland(June 24, 1999)--Defending Barber Dodge Pro Series champion Jeff Simmons found a way through a first-turn melee that involved more than half of the first four rows of the grid and led the final 25 laps of the most recent Barber Dodge event at Portland International Raceway during the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 to claim his first victory of the season. After a red-flag period to remove several cars from the gravel trap in the infamous Festival Curves, Simmons pulled away cleanly on the restart , allowing him to build his final 4.565-second margin of victory over a pair of hard-charging young Brazilians. Now with a quick one-week turnaround for the Cleveland Grand Prix, Simmons is hoping to keep the momentum flowing on the tarmac next to Lake Erie
A similar hard right on the first turn in Cleveland, coupled with the usual field of strong talent leaves Simmons confident about his chances on the wide 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport circuit. Last year, the 22-year old East Granby, Conn. native came in third at the track, despite having a broken right rear shock, after reeling off consecutive wins at Watkins Glen and Detroit.
"It's a pretty easy track to learn, but it should be a tight grid because of it. It will be crucial once again to be patient on the start and get through the danger at the first turn," Simmons said. "It was nice to see that Rocky wasn't totally hooked up last weekend. When you get a good setup you usually only have to make slight modifications for each track and he seems to have found that good baseline. Unfortunately, with all the little problems that have been plaguing us this year, I have not yet had a car that truly felt good nor comfortable. Brake problems, shock problems, and alignment problems seem to have infected my car, hopefully the win will exorcise our mechanical demons."
Nilton Rossoni used a last-ditch outside pass in the final corner to get a run and nip fellow countryman Vanderlan Junior for second at the finish line in Portland. Rossoni worked his way up from a ninth-place standing on the lap four restart and in the process recorded the fastest lap of the race at 1:14.911 at 94.624 mph on lap 25, moving to fourth in the points. Rookie Vanderlan's third-place finish was a season-best and served notice that he was finding a comfort level in the 265-horsepower Reynard Dodge. "I think was the race was very good for me, and it helped me," Vanderlan acknowledged.
Bell recovered from his off-track excursion to finish fourth and increased the pressure on points leader Moran following his win in Round 3 at Lime Rock. Moran did manage to maintain a 59-47 lead over Bell and Simmons despite a 12th place finish after a two-wheeled foray early in the race. Portland was the first race of the year that Moran did not lead or win the pole. Sepp Koster also remains in the mix with fifth-place points on a tiebreaker with Rossoni.
"At the first corner I thought I was free and clear, but I got clipped and sent into a half-spin. I was happy to get out of there in one piece," Bell said of the right-handed chicane which required slowing the cars from 140 to 40 mph. "I think it'll be a pretty good run for the championship with quite a few guys. It was nice to see someone other than Rocky get a pole."