(Fontana, Calif.) April 13, 2002 - Barber-CART Karting Scholarship Winner Ward Imrie benefited from some front-of-field attrition to capture his first ever Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER victory over...
(Fontana, Calif.) April 13, 2002 - Barber-CART Karting Scholarship Winner Ward Imrie benefited from some front-of-field attrition to capture his first ever Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER victory over hard-charging Burt Frisselle and perennial front-runner Scott Poirier. Imrie led 19 of the 23-lap race on the modified California Speedway road circuit. Frisselle, by virtue of his third podium in four races, maintains his Series points lead with a significant 63 points.
Imrie, the top qualifier, maintained his advantage in the early going but succumbed to relentless pressure by Robbie Montinola, who eclipsed him for the point on lap 7. Montinola paced the field for four laps before his Supertrap fell-off, requiring him to pit immediately. He returned to the action quickly, following some expedient work by the pit crew, but the Californian was now out of contention. Imrie benefited, of course, and now towed Poirier around the 1.2-mile track as the pair broke from the field. As the pair pulled away, Jonatan Jorge was on a furious tear through the pack. Jorge was effectively overcoming his poor qualifying effort. The 16th place starter had advanced 13 positions by mid-race and was starting to put the pinch on Poirier. On lap 16, Jorge looked for an opening in turn-1 but carried too much entry speed and failed to defy the laws of physics. The Brazilian subsequently crashed and retired from the race, elevating Burt Frisselle to third. A full course caution, the second of the race, bunched the field and negated the leader's advantage. At the restart, Imrie put his head down and seemed desperate to run out the clock. Poirier kept peeking for an opening but the Canadian defended his line admirably.
As the laps waned, Frisselle caught the lead pair to set up a three-car push to the final flag. Soon after, Poirier tapped Imrie in the hairpin, causing his nose to dislodge. Frisselle saw an opening but couldn't execute. Imrie continued to count down laps, hoping to abate the intense pressure. A mistake would likely cost him his first Series victory. Frisselle successfully popped on Poirier to claim second with 2 laps to go as it seemed the Floridian was struggling with his new aerodynamic package. From there, Frisselle gamely pursued the leader but time was about to run out.
Tenth place starter Al Unser, who struggled in Round 3, came home in fourth just ahead of Aurelio Lopez, in fifth. Californian Justin Blower drove a heady race, advancing from 13th to finish sixth while Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Craig Baltzer celebrated a strong seventh place showing. Robbie Montinola overcame his bad luck by carving his way through the field from last to finish eighth, setting fastest lap in the process with a time of 1:15.653 sec. Brian Johnson improved his race craft significantly over the two round weekend. He picked off 10 positions to earn ninth place honors after a start from 19th. Wisconsin's Grant Maiman rounded out the top-10, after a start from the 15th spot.
Among the racers outside the top-10, Jason Klein deserves mention as he continues to impress. The Long Grove, Illinois racer stayed within himself to secure his best FDNC result in 11th. Shinjji Kashima also turned in an inspired drive to finish 13th after a start from 22nd. Round 3 winner Scott Sharp's day ended when the CART Stars of Tomorrow Award Winner crashed out on lap 4.
Although Imrie never wilted, the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship admitted Round 4 was the longest race of his life.
"Long... but good," said Imrie, from Winnipeg, Canada. "I made one mistake and that's when I got passed by Robbie. Unfortunately, he had a mechanical and had to pit. I inherited the front from him and tried to race mistake-free. I just had to hang on at the end."
This type of race may portend a championship charge as we approach the middle third of the schedule.
"It definitely boosts my confidence a lot," said Imrie. "It started a bit at Laguna Seca. I felt fast there, even in the rain. And I felt very comfortable on track today. I'm very excited going forward to the next rounds at Putnam Park." Poirier, who like Frisselle, appeared on the steps both days, believes his approach to collecting points will pay off in the long run.
"I'm very pleased to have come here and landed on the blocks [podium]. Second and third results definitely boost my chances for the championship points. I'm glad to be part of the Skip Barber and CART organization. We really produce some awesome racing!"
Frisselle backed away from the temptation to overdrive the car. The series points leader is proud to have driven what he termed 'a smart race.'
"I know I raced smart and I'm really pleased with my effort," said Frisselle. "I didn't have a great start and got shuffled back to eighth. I regrouped a bit, decided to save my tires, avoid mistakes and to stay focused. I had to let opportunities present themselves, rather than push, and that's what happened. Some guys made mistakes and I benefited. I made a few strong passes when I could but basically I let the race come to me."