Dodge Pro series 2001 Year in Review, part II

Barber Dodge Pro Series Year In Review, part 2 For the first time ever, the Barber Dodge Pro Series visited Toronto, Canada for round 7. None of the Barber Dodge drivers had raced there before, so some fireworks were expected, and ...

Barber Dodge Pro Series Year In Review, part 2

For the first time ever, the Barber Dodge Pro Series visited Toronto, Canada for round 7. None of the Barber Dodge drivers had raced there before, so some fireworks were expected, and delivered.

Hunter-Reay captured his second career victory in dramatic fashion in the race that supported the CART FedEx Molson Indy Toronto. The No. 31 Barber-CART Scholarship Team Dodge Reynard passed polesitter Plumb inside of turn-3 on the 21st of 27 laps raced. Running nose to tail, the pair had spread their wings in the early going to distance themselves from the field. As Hunter-Reay executed the pass, Plumb lost the momentum on the outside line allowing a hard charging Koster to sneak passed into second place and the three would remain in that order until the finish.

The race would finish under yellow as a result of a frightening high-speed accident involving Alex Sperafico. He appeared to be launched into mid-air when touching wheels with another driver along the back straight at speeds in excess of 145 mph. A testament to the integrity of the Barber Dodge Reynard racecar, Sperafico emerged under his own power shaken, but none the worse for wear.

“ Matt had me on certain parts of the track and I had him in others. Where I made the pass I had him and just waited for the opportunity,” said Hunter-Reay, 20, who had stalked Plumb from less than half a second behind since the third corner of the race.“ The Dodge Reynard was handling well during the race, a lot better than it had during the warm up this morning that had left me a little concerned. We made all the right adjustments.”

Koster started the race on the front row, but thought discretion the better part of valor when he saw the car of Sperafico charging up the inside into turn-1. Wanting to save the fight for later, he wisely yielded the position but in the process saw himself slip from second to fifth place. And so would begin a charge through the field in the No.3 Stora-Drain Dodge Reynard that would see thrilling battles involving the likes of Rondet, and Sperafico in addition to Plumb and Hunter-Reay.

Senske's second place made CART history.

Round 8 was to be another new stop on the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Chicago Motor Speedway. Rondet scored his second victory of the 2001in the same fashion as the first, wire-to-wire from the pole. Like a metronome keeping the beat, Rondet never missed in his Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard as from turn-1 he would lead from a history making Sara Senske and Jon Morley. With her second-place finish she becomes the first woman in the history of CART sanctioned races to stand on the podium. It was a career best finish for both Senske and Morley who previously had never scored higher than sixth and fourth respectively. With the win Rondet extended his championship lead over Plumb by 15-points.

“ It might have looked easy but a win seldom is. Sara was right there most of the race and I had to keep focused and push all the time,” said Rondet.“ But this win is good for me. I’m happy for Sara and Jon being their first podium and that my closest competitors in the championship are not here (on the podium). Other than Vancouver, we have three of the four rounds remaining on courses that I expect to perform very well on.”

On a track where she knew that it would be difficult for the leaders to pass, Senske continued to pile on the pressure usually around half a second behind Rondet. In the end the Frenchman was inch perfect and without a significant mistake by him the end was nearly a forgone conclusion.

“ I’m thrilled,” said Senske of Kennewick, Wash.“ I’m always looking to race hard and better my position but Nicolas always had the advantage setting the pace and being on the inside line into turn-1 at the start so it was going to be difficult to get around him.”

Sizzling Midwest heat greeted the Barber Dodge Pro Series for round 9 at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in support of the CART FedEx Miller Lite 200. Rondet took his second consecutive victory using a weaker restart by polesitter and early leader Matt Plumb following a full course caution on lap 10 of the of the 26-lap contest to his advantage. Plumb kept his title bid in check however by finishing second. The drive of the race might have gone to Sepp Koster who battled his way to a third place finish, also keeping his title dreams afloat. The trio now led the overall championship standings in the same order as they finished the race. The five drivers who still have a realistic chance at the title finished first through fifth with Hunter-Reay in fourth and Yasukawa in fifth. The chase for the $300,000 Career Enhancement Award is heating up with only three rounds remaining.

“ I’m glad I finally won a race here. It’s my favorite track, I love it,” said Rondet, 30.

“ We were just coming off of the restart on cold tires and I knew that my car was very good on the brakes in turn-7,” continued Rondet of his pass for the lead.“ Matt didn’t have a good run out of the Keyhole and I capitalized on it. He went to the left and then to the right but I knew that whichever way he went I was going to get by under braking.”

A week and several hundred miles to the North, brought cold and rain at Road America in sharp contrast to the stifling heat of Mid Ohio. Koster leapt into second place in the fight for the title and the $300,000 Career Enhancement Award as he led every lap to win his third race of the year. Overall leader Rondet finished third including the fastest lap of the race netting 15 points. Yasukawa ensured that his assault on the title remained in tact with a second place finish. He now lay fourth overall. Third in the overall, Plumb battled gamely overcoming a damaged nose and tire to blaze back through the field and finish sixth.

Koster and Plumb weren't about to let Rondet get away

Koster simply dominated the proceedings in his Stora Drain Dodge Reynard at Road America as he was never to be bested neither in the qualifying nor the race. Leading into the first corner at the start, he needed only to sustain considerable pressure from Yasukawa, Rondet, Plumb early, Cook and Breuers. But when the battle for second through fourth intensified, Koster opened a gap on lap 11 of 15 and was thus never threatened.

Said Koster afterwards,“ Towards the end of the season you can see everybody getting a little more intense and taking more chances. You also see who can step it up, so I know I have to focus a little more for these races. After the all the rain I realized that the track had a lot less grip so it took me a lap to settle down. After that I kept my focus and was able to open a gap.”

Part 3 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series Year in Review will focus on the final run to the title.

Return to Part I

-CART/barber-

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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Sepp Koster , Alex Sperafico , Matt Plumb , Jon Morley