Portland: Round five preview

(Portland, OR) June 19, 2003-The Barber Dodge Pro Series heads to Portland International Raceway this weekend to contest round five of ten in the 2003 championship. Driving identically prepared Dodge-powered Reynards equipped with Michelin Pilot...

(Portland, OR) June 19, 2003-The Barber Dodge Pro Series heads to Portland International Raceway this weekend to contest round five of ten in the 2003 championship. Driving identically prepared Dodge-powered Reynards equipped with Michelin Pilot SX tires, the field should spawn some exciting and close racing in the intense quest for the $100,000 Season Championship top-prize and the over $1 million total purse. The drivers will be competing on the 1.969-mile permanent road course outside of Portland, which features fast flowing corners on the back side of the course, which lead to a long front straightway which in turn funnels into the tight Festival Corners. The diverse nature of the track forces the driver to optimize their cars for both slow and fast corners.

The last race meeting for the Pro Series field was just last weekend at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The forty-minute race was a thrilling event from start to finish, as a first-lap incident forced several drivers who had qualified at the front of the field to charge through the pack. Leo Maia started the second lap in seventeenth place, and invented several new places to pass on his way to finishing fourth. Barber Champ Car Scholarship racer Colin Fleming of North Hills, California, also put in a fine drive to move from sixteenth on the second lap to seventh behind rookie Al Unser, who had his best result of his Pro Series career with a sixth place finish. Daniel Di Leo of Markham, Ontario, Canada broke through to take his first career win in the Pro Series after holding of a late-race charge from Memo Rojas.

"It was a really exciting race for me last weekend, and now I am ready to go here in Portland," said Di Leo, who arrives to Portland full of confidence after his first win. Di Leo had his best finish of his rookie 2002 season in Portland last season, finishing second to eventual Pro Series Champion A.J. Allmendinger. After coming in second at the season opening race in St. Petersburg, Di Leo scored a sixth place result in Mexico and earned a seventh-place finish in his first Barber Dodge Pro Series oval race in Milwaukee and now finds himself third in the overall points standings.

"I am extremely excited about this weekend and the rest of the year," explained Di Leo. "I finally get to go back to the track where I had my best finish last year."

Leo Maia of Oakland, California leads the 2003 championship points battle by twelve points over Mexico's Memo Rojas. With the top five in the points battle still very close, every competitor knows that both speed and consistency will be required to take the championship. Maia scored a win in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, and backed that performance up with a second place finish behind David Martinez at the second round in Monterrey, Mexico. Maia scored his second win of the season in round three with a late-race pass of pole sitter Victor Gonzalez to bolster his lead over Rojas. The 2003 season has been the best start for Maia entering the Barber- Champ Car Ladder system, and the young Oakland native wants to keep his points-scoring momentum up as the season gets fast and furious, with the remaining five races taking place over a fast three months.

"I love this track in Portland, and I had a strong race here, so I am looking to keep the momentum up this weekend," said Maia. "After last weekends announcement (Barber-Champ Car officials announced that the Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion will receive a Toyota Atlantic test with RuSport), there is even more motivation to keep working on my points for the championship."

Ben Freudenberg, who competes in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER Magazine with one with to date this season, will be making his first Barber Dodge Pro Series start this weekend. Freudenberg, of North Bend, Oregon, has been testing in anticipation of his first start, is looking forward to getting into the car.

"These cars are just so much fun to drive, I can't wait to get in and get going," said Freudenberg. "This is a great track, and to be making my debut here in my home state, I am really looking forward to the weekend."

Notes:

* Ryan Millen made his Barber Dodge Pro Series debut last weekend at Laguna with backing from Rod Millen Special Vehicles with a 13th place finish. The Millen name is famous for racing success in both road racing and on the heights of Pikes Peak.

* Despite an early race spin, German Quiroga of Mexico City, Mexico, kept his streak alive of scoring a top ten finish in every race of the 2003 season, and is hoping to break into the top five this weekend.

* Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico is looking to take his first win in the Pro Series this weekend. Rojas is second in the points standings on the strength of his strong finishes and outstanding consistency, having scored a podium finish in each of the first four races this season.

International Entry

Eight of the entered field hail from the United States, with the remainder of the field providing representation from all parts of the globe as the Pro Series has once again attracted international attention and participation. David Martinez , Memo Rojas, German Quiroga, and Luis Pelayo will fly Mexico's colors this weekend, with Antoine Bessette, Dan Di Leo, Chris Green, Mike Richardson, and Josh Beaulieu representing Canada. The Pro Series will race in Canada three times this season, and will race in Mexico for the first time at the Monterrey Grand Prix along with the Champ Car World Series in March. Shinji Kahima will make the long trip over from Tokyo, Japan for the race, and Victor Gonzalaz of Hatoray, Puerto Rico, and Nelson Phillipe of Valence, France round out the contingent of international competitors taking part in the season.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series is the Official Entry Level Professional Series of Champ Car. The drivers utilize identically prepared single seat open wheel Reynard-Dodge racecars. Barber Dodge Pro Series provides a level playing field where driving talent, not financial resources, play the decisive role. This state-of-the-art platform, with its carbon composite construction, raised nose and 6-speed sequential gearbox, takes full advantage of the 265hp all aluminum Dodge V6 Intrepid motor that is exclusive to this series. Additionally, all of the Barber Dodges compete on identical Michelin Pilot racing slicks.

To ensure absolute equality for all competitors, the Barber Dodge Pro Series owns, maintains, prepares and transports all the cars and equipment. This serves to control costs while allowing the drivers to concentrate solely on developing their driving skills. The Barber Dodge Pro Series rewards those with dedication and skill with true financial incentive - an incredible $55,100 in prize money is available for each Barber Dodge Pro Series event with $13,000 going to the race winner. The overall Series Champion receives a $100,000 scholarship towards entry in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, and the series Rookie of the Year receives $185,000 in career enhancement funding. In total, the Barber Dodge Pro Series pays out over $1 million annually in prize money, contingencies and scholarships.

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Josh Beaulieu , German Quiroga , Memo Rojas , Mike Richardson , Colin Fleming , Skip Barber , David Martinez , Luis Pelayo , Antoine Bessette , Ben Freudenberg , Ryan Millen , Rod Millen , Nelson Philppe