Cleveland: Round six preview

Cleveland: Round six preview
Jul 4, 2003, 2:31 PM

Back to Burke for Barber Dodge. (Cleveland, OH) July 02, 2003-The Barber Dodge Pro Series heads to the Burke Lakefront Airport this weekend for round six of the 2003 championship. The drivers will be competing on the 2.106 mile temporary street ...

Back to Burke for Barber Dodge.

(Cleveland, OH) July 02, 2003-The Barber Dodge Pro Series heads to the Burke Lakefront Airport this weekend for round six of the 2003 championship. The drivers will be competing on the 2.106 mile temporary street course constructed on the runways of the Burke Airport. The Pro Series will race as a support series to the Champ Car World Series, which will be staging an historic first night race on the shorefront on Saturday night.

The 2003 championship season has been extremely competitive thus far, with three different winners in five races. Leo Maia won the season opening event in St. Petersburg, Florida, and finished second to David Martinez in round two. The only oval event of the season, staged at the Milwaukee Mile, saw Maia emerge as the winner in a race-long battle with Victor Gonzalez, with Dan Di Leo taking his first win at Laguna Seca. The last round race in Portland belonged once again to Leo Maia, who scored a record twenty-three points for the weekend by taking the win, a point in each of the two qualifying sessions, and one final point for running the fastest lap of the race.

Maia is certainly on a hot streak, as he has finished in the top five in every Barber Dodge race since the Mid-Ohio round last season. Maia has a twenty-five point advantage over Laguna Seca winner Dan Di Leo, and is hoping to extend the lead, but knows he doesn't have to win every race to get to his goal. Maia also wants to keep his top five streak alive, and thinks that qualifying is going make a big difference in that effort.

"Qualifying is so important here just because the first corner is so tight that things can, and do, happen on the first lap down there, but rarely for the guy on pole," said Maia. "If I can be up front at the start, I should be able to avoid any incidents and hopefully score another win or at least more points toward the championship."

Maia's first race at the Burke Lakefront Airport last season gave him the opportunity to find several new passing zones as he went from sixteenth early in the race up to sixth.

"This is a great track for passing, since you can just make it happen without needing to have the other guy make a mistake," said Maia. "I also just really like how fast we are going through the corners here, its faster than anywhere else we'll be this season, and the layout is nice and wide open, so you can pick different lines through the corners if you get caught in traffic or are trying to make a pass."

Another competitor to keep an eye on will be round two winner David Martinez of Monterrey, Mexico. The young Mexican made one start in the Barber Dodge Pro Series before this season, and it was in Cleveland. Martinez scored a third place finish in his first visit to Laguna Seca, and backed that performance up with a second place in Portland, so the young Mexican is looking forward to returning to Cleveland and trying to get to the top step of the podium once again.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series will hold first round qualifying on Thursday at 5:45 p.m. , with final qualifying taking place on Friday at 2:00, and the race is scheduled to get underway at 3:15 on Saturday. Full results and story to be posted at


* Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico fell to third in the championship standings from second after a disastrous first lap prevented the young Mexican from finishing on the podium, the first non-podium finish of the season for Rojas. Rojas is hoping to bounce back on a track where he has previous experience and take his first win of his Barber Dodge career.

* Last years race was a good example of the wide open nature of the track, as several of the front-running qualifiers were shuffled back in the field after an early race incident. AJ Allmendinger finished fourth last season after charging back through the field after falling to seventeenth spot while current championship points leader Leo Maia did nearly as well, moving up from sixteenth to finish in sixth.

* Canadian Josh Beaulieu will be making his first Barber Dodge Pro Series start this weekend since the season opening race in St. Petersburg, where he scored the provisional pole.

* Barber Champ Car Scholarship driver Colin Fleming scored third place in the Portland round, his first podium finish of the season, and the first for the current Barber Champ Car scholarship team, which also includes Burt Frisselle, Robbie Montinola, Al Unser, and Scott Proirier.


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