(Monterey, Calif.) March 10, 2002 - Burt Frisselle punctuated a strong weekend at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca when he pulled away from hard-charging Al Unser and Grant Maiman mid-way through Round 2 action en route to a masterful win in the Skip...
(Monterey, Calif.) March 10, 2002 - Burt Frisselle punctuated a strong weekend at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca when he pulled away from hard-charging Al Unser and Grant Maiman mid-way through Round 2 action en route to a masterful win in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER. Frisselle, by virtue of his qualifying prowess, secured his first series win and now leads the Official Amateur National Championship of CART by two points over Maiman, of New London, Wisconsin. Rain and fog that had dampened the qualifying session earlier had abated, giving way to sunny skies and a drying track.
Car set-up would be the determiner for the young racers. With an abbreviated amount of time between qualifying and the race, those drivers best able to assess and calculate set-up correctly would have the nod. Frisselle led all 17 laps, a testament to his comfort level on the 2.24-mile road course. He raced fluidly for most of the contest, a slight bobble in turn-5 his only blight. By then, however, he was had built a comfortable margin and the race outcome seemed reasonably certain.
Early on, Maiman appeared he would be the only threat to Frisselle's first win. Unser charged and caught Maiman, allowing Frisselle to open up a gap. At times, there was a heated four-car race for second position. Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Ward Imrie, who started second, held off local favorite Robbie Montinola until lap 11, an accomplishment of sorts. Montinola, who started from eighth on the grid, calculated his car set-up well, advancing from eighth to finish fourth. Imrie, the impressive young racer from Manitoba, rounded out the top-5.
Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Colin Fleming topped off a good weekend in sixth place, ahead of CART Stars of Tomorrow Award Winner Scott Speed in seventh, Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Charlie Kimball in eighth, Western Regional driver Justin Blower, ninth, with Regional Runoff Winner Scott Poirier rounding out the top-10.
Frisselle's second podium of the weekend was clearly attributable to car set-up.
"We had a wet set-up on the car, which contributed to our strong qualifying effort. We did real well and ended up on pole. For the race, we made a bar change. Basically, we bet that it would stop raining. This made the car stiffer in the rear; it was more of a dry set up. It was the right change for the conditions. A lot of guys didn't make that change, or at least to that degree, and it allowed me to gap them quite a bit."
As a Western Regional driver, Frisselle enjoys the advantage of having driven this track plenty, at several times in the wet.
"I have experience on treaded tires here, when we run in the winter, it tends to rain a lot. I may have an edge more than most. Based on results today, I don't mind running on treads too much."
Unser, the first-year driver in the National Championship, also set-up well, allowing him to pick off three positions in the contest.
"We stiffened up my car, anticipating it would go dry. I probably could've even gone stiffer. I had a good battle with Grant. He was hard to catch but very interesting to pass."
Maiman, who culled 34 points on the weekend, sees himself as a front-runner for the season and sees no reason things will change at California Speedway, site for Rounds 3 and 4 of the National Championship.
"Despite not having been to California Speedway, I believe I'll take the same approach as with Laguna Seca, a track I've only been to once before. I'll gather intelligence as best possible, and translate what I learn into track skills. I plan to put the two together quickly to pick up on the track to get up to speed."
Frisselle's early season success means he is on the receiving end of pressure as well as accolades.
"I wouldn't want to be in any other spot. Sure, there's a bit of pressure. When you're leading, you're the guy that everyone wants to beat."