SBRS: Rossoni the Champion

Nilton Rossoni won the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship with his sixth victory of the season at the Racing For Kids Grand Prix featuring the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Not that Rossoni had to win the race to...

Nilton Rossoni won the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship with his sixth victory of the season at the Racing For Kids Grand Prix featuring the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Not that Rossoni had to win the race to secure the crown, but the Brazilian made his way to the front from his fourth starting position early in the race and only Dutchman Sepp Koster could keep up with him. Thus Rossoni become the 15th champion of the Barber Dodge Pro Series earning the $305,000 Career Enhancement Award that will aid his efforts to move up the ladder into the CART Dayton Indy Lights Series. With their ten best results counting toward the championship, Rossoni secured the title 175 points to 155 points over American Jon Fogarty.

Second place in today's race went to Koster. In spite of a stomach illness the driver of the No. 5 Blue Bay Curacao Golf Resorts Dodge Reynard was able to set fastest lap of the race on lap 21 at 1:19.832 sec around the 2.223-mile road course. Third place went to another Brazilian Alexandre Sperafico marking his best career finish. Fogarty battled valiantly throughout the race but the Rossoni win made it all academic. He finished the race in fourth.

"I feel wonderful, you don't know. So many people have worked so hard for this," said the newly crowned champion. "It's unbelievable. I was crying and screaming after I got the checkered flag. My car was just great on the cold Michelins as usual. I saw that I was catching people, which I didn't think I would. The moves at the beginning of the race were safe. I didn't want to take any unneeded risks. After Detroit, we sat down and said if we were going to win this series, we had to stop making mistakes. >From Cleveland on were we checking and double checking every little thing."

Starting the year off with two wins, Rossoni temporarily lost his way in rounds 3 through 5 of the season where he netted a mere 13 points. Cleveland brought him his third win of the season, and from there he would be on the podium six of the next seven races, adding three more wins at Road America, Laguna Seca and finally Homestead. Rossoni now joins drivers such as Robbie Buhl, Bryan Herta, Kenny Brack and Jeff Simmons in the pantheon of champions

With his second place finish, Koster solidified his hold on third in the overall tally. A great drive in this race and some spectacular driving in the previous two rounds was little consolation to Koster who had chance at the title until Laguna Seca. Koster saw a lot of action in the opening laps, jostling with Matt Plumb and Jamie Menninga until he finally slipped past Plumb into second place for good on the fifth lap. From there he and Rossoni left the field in their wake. Koster managed to jump into the lead on lap-22 only to have Rossoni take it back on the next lap. The heat and his stomach ailment began to get the best of him and the personable Koster settled into a comfortable second.

"The car was great. I caught up to Nilton quickly, but from there we were lapping at the same speed. I had to push really hard to get into the draft, but the heat was affecting my engine. So I paced myself and hoped for Nilton to make a mistake. I was staring to feel worse as the race went on, but having that carrot in front of me made me chase hard. After he passed me (to retake the lead), I lost a little bit of spirit so I decided to consolidate my position," recounted Koster

Sperafico said after his best qualifying performance where he started third that his goal in the race was to stay in the top-3 and finish on the podium. Though he lost touch with the leaders, he had the specter of Fogarty behind him virtually the entire race. A heads up drive by the Brazilain in the No. 20 Iveco Fiat Dodge Reynard resulted in a goal fulfilled.

"At the beginning I thought I was going to be fighting with the guys at the front. But there were a lot of moves, so I said to myself, 'okay, let's see what's going on then try to do something," said an elated Sperafico. "Once everyone settled in their positions, I tried to go to the front, but Nilton was very fast, and my car didn't get faster until the last half of the race. Jon was giving me a lot of pressure from behind and with this fight I lost some time to the other guys at the front."

Typically there were numerous battles up and down the Barber Dodge field. Californian Jon Vannini earned the Conseco Step Up Award having gained the most positions over his start spot. He passed three cars on his way from 16th to 12th.

The final top-15 standings for the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series are as follows. Only the ten best results are counted with the raw points in parenthesis were applicable.

Nilton Rossoni 175 (178); Jon Fogarty, 155 (163); Sepp Koster, 130 (139); Matt Plumb, 112; Ryan Hunter-Reay, 104 (110); Michael Valiante, 97; Roger Yasukawa, 94; Jamie Menninga, 86; Alexandre Sperafico, 85; Thed Bjork 83; Andy Lally, 74; Andre Nicastro 69; Peter Boss, 54; Brent Sherman, 41; Marc Breuers 36

<pre> Provisional Results Round 12 of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Racing For Kids Grand Prix featuring the Barber Dodge Pro Series Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Fla. Oct 8, 2000

Pos/St/No/Driver/Hometown/PTS/Purse/Laps/Status 1/4/36/Nilton Rossoni/Curitiba, Brazil/20/$12,000/30/Running 2/5/5/Sepp Koster/The Netherlands/16/$8,000/30/Running 3/3/20/Alexandre Sperafico/Brazil/14/$6,000/30/Running 4/7/52/Jon Fogarty/Portolo Valley, Calif./12/$4,000/30/Running 5/2/17/Matt Plumb/Unionville, Penn./11/$2,500/30/Running 6/9/95/Michael Valiante/Vancouver,Canada/10/$2,000/30/Running 7/10/31/Ryan Hunter-Reay/Boca Raton, Fla./9/$1,800/30/Running 8/8/9/Roger Yasukawa/Santa Monica, Calif./8/$1,700/30/Running 9/11/99/Davy Cook/Tallahasse, Fla./7/$1,600/30/Running 10/13/19/Sara Senske/Kennewick, Washington/6/$1,500/30/Running 11/6/27/Rafael Sperafico/Brazil/5/$1,400 /30/Running/ 12/16/21/Jon Vannini/Hillsborough, California/4/$1,800/30/Running 13/15/53/Tom Fogarty/Soledad, Calif./3/$1,200/30/Running 14/17/4/Brent Sherman/North Barrington, Ill./2/$1,100/29/Running 15/19/83/Shareef Malnik, Miami Beach, Fla./1/$1,000/29/Running 16/1/7/Jamie Menninga/Pella, Iowa/1/$500/18/Mechanical 17/18/25/Kip Gulseth/Manitowoc, Wisc./$500/18/Contact 18/14/23/Marc Breuers/Gladwyne, Penn./$500/17/Off Course 19/12/11/Thed Björk/Vretstorp, Sweden/$500/13/Contact

Length of Race: 30 laps of 2.223-mile circuit for 66.690 miles Time of Race: 40 minutes, 20.445 seconds Average Speed: 99.190 mph Margin of Victory: 2.243 sec. Lap Leaders: Jamie Menninga laps 1 through 6 Nilton Rossoni laps 7 through 21 and 23 through 30 Sepp Koster lap 22 Fastest Race Lap: Sepp Koster 1:19.821sec (100.246)New Record Fastest Qualifier: Jamie Menninga 1:19.832sec (100.246 mph) New Record Conseo Step Up Award: Jon Vannini From 16th to 12th Total Payout: $49,600

-George Tamayo

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Peter Boss , Robbie Buhl , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Andy Lally , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Brent Sherman , Davy Cook , Tom Fogarty , Marc Breuers , Roger Yasukawa , Jon Vannini , Rafael Sperafico , Nilton Rossoni , Thed Björk , Sepp Koster , Jeff Simmons , Matt Plumb