Skip Barber National: Moon Flies and Ramos Rambles
SEBRING, Fla. (Mar. 20 ) - With two big changes for 2004 -- the 30 identically prepared Formula Dodges now on BFGoodrich tires and a new $190,000 championship prize fund -- the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER opened its season with a double-header at Sebring International Raceway, supporting the 52nd annual 12-hours of Sebring.
In Thursday's race, Benny Moon, the winner of this past January's Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Run-off, took advantage of a rare engine failure suffered by polesitter Gerardo Bonilla early in the race, then passed Chris Prey and Victor Ramos on successive laps soon afterward to take the victory. Prey got around Ramos with two laps to go and went after Moon but fell .349 seconds short. Robbie Pecorari, racing under another karting scholarship banner (the newly announced Skip Barber-Stars of Karting award), took an impressive fourth, followed by Jason Bowles, Charlie Fonseca and Marco Andretti. Ricky Schmidt, Mark Patterson (from 19th) and Ron White rounded out the top 10.
In Friday morning qualifying for the second round, Ramos nipped Moon by a 10th of a second for pole, but lost the lead to Moon at the start. Ramos fell even further back (to fourth) as things got wild in the Hairpin during the third lap. Remarkably, Ramos made up all those positions one lap later, taking full advantage of the disarray when Moon fell off the road in the Hairpin -- he rejoined 17th -- and shot to the lead, trailed by Bowles, Seth Ingham, Prey and Andretti. Bowles instantly found himself in an extremely entertaining dogfight for second, and that allowed Ramos to gain at least three-tenths of a second per lap on the snarling pack. With four to go, on one lap Andretti shot from fifth to second, while behind him Pecorari rocketed from 10th to sixth. With passes and re-passes at nearly every corner over the final laps in the battle for second, it was nearly impossible to keep track of the action, but by the start of the last lap Ramos was up by 2.2 seconds over Andretti and Pecorari -- who then put the pass on Michael's boy to take second at the checkered. Bowles kept a handle on fourth, while Moon, amazing as he knocked off car after car, worked all the way back to fifth. Bonilla, determined to make up for Thursday's heartbreak, started fourth, fell back to 10th early on, but sliced his way to sixth at the end. Seventh through 10th were Ron White (from 15th), Prey, Ricky Schmidt and Ingham.
With FDNC rounds three and four set for April 24-25 at Virginia International Raceway, Ramos' win-and-a-third weekend has him atop the points with 35, four up on Moon and seven to the better on Pecorari.