SBRS: Sebring race notes

Bessette claims first victory in Skip Barber Challenge. Quebec native Antoine Bessette secured the first Skip Barber Challenge victory in sunny and warm Sebring, Florida this past weekend on the Sebring Modified race course. Bessette used a ...

Bessette claims first victory in Skip Barber Challenge.

Quebec native Antoine Bessette secured the first Skip Barber Challenge victory in sunny and warm Sebring, Florida this past weekend on the Sebring Modified race course. Bessette used a fastest lap time of 1:09.488 sec. to best polesitter Craig Duerson early on and then hold off an aggressive charge from Matt Franc for the win. Arnold Brinkman followed Franc to claim third place honors. Michael Culver advanced from ninth to fourth to pick off five positions and earn Most Progressive Driver distinction. Quentin Wahl and Chris Oliver were engaged in a good scrap before Oliver, leading Wahl, spun on the exit of turn-2. Wahl collected him causing minor damage to their R/T 2000s and dropping them several positions. Still, both were able to continue to land top-10 results. Duerson, the accomplished regional veteran, led the first 15 trips before locking up his brakes heading into turn-2. He went four-off, turned around and continued. After pitting, he was able to climb back to fourth position and eventually finished in fifth.

Duerson would rebound and prove stronger in the rematch. Starting from fifth, the former Southern Regional Champion slotted into the lead by lap 3 and never looked back, pacing the 11-car field over the balance 24 laps. Matt Franc, who led early, ran strong but would have to settle for second place ahead of Antoine Bessette, in third. Arnold Brinkman and John Pew rounded out the top-5 respectively. Fourth place starter Michael Culver, who shined in Race 1, was forced to pit after a spin. He gamely regrouped after rejoining the field in last place, motoring to a sixth place result. Following the first two rounds, Bessette holds the early series points lead with 17 credits, one more than Matt Franc and Craig Duerson, both tied for second with 16 points.

According to Don Drislane, Manager of the Skip Barber Challenge, the inaugural weekend went extremely well.

"I saw lots of smiles on our customer's faces," said Drislane. "Everyone stayed within themselves as they got acclimated to the more powerful Dodge Reynard 98E. The upgraded environment, hospitality, paddock, the excitement of competing in these cars contributed to two awesome races."

With the first Skip Barber Challenge weekend in the books, the series and many of the same customers now look to the second of three Challenge events. Enrollment for the upcoming weekend is expected to surge 50% as word of the opportunity gets around.

The Skip Barber Challenge is open to selected customers who have participated in at least one full regional championship season and is designed to give the drivers the opportunity to experience the Dodge Reynard 98E, the car used by Barber Dodge Pro Series racers in competition. Subsequent weekends will feature a different track configuration. The November 1-2 weekend will use of the same layout as the Sebring 12-Hour event on the "Full Course" Sebring track. The final race weekend, December 6-7, will utilize the "New Sebring" layout, a configuration that is favored by many CART teams for their off-season testing.

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