Pro Series 2000 review, part III

Returning to Ohio in mid-August following another six-week pause, round seven of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series and the second half of the season would begin at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Prior to the break, Nilton Rossoni rekindled his ...

Returning to Ohio in mid-August following another six-week pause, round seven of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series and the second half of the season would begin at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Prior to the break, Nilton Rossoni rekindled his effort with a dominate victory in round 6 at Cleveland. While most of the drivers in the Top-10 were still in the running for the season title, it was beginning to look like a three-man race among Jon Fogarty, Rossoni and Sepp Koster.

The sensation of the weekend was the rookie Thed Bjork. Having never been to Mid-Ohio, he was on top form all weekend taking the pole in only his seventh start. Form might have been with Bjork but fortune rained on Fogarty. Bjork dashed off into the lead at the start and as the laps wound down, victory was nary his. After a late race restart, the unfortunate Bjork's car suffered a sudden loss of oil pressure and the field came barreling around him led by Fogarty. The Californian had hounded Bjork for the entire race, and took over when he faltered to score his third win of the season at the very place where he recorded career win number one two years before. Rossoni and Koster completed the podium, keeping a near status quo at the top of the point table with Fogarty edging out a slighter lead.

A week hence, the series moved on to the fastest and most daunting road course in the U.S., Road America. The four-mile behemoth rewards the brave of heart and in the end Rossoni proved the bravest if only because he led every lap bar one to take his fourth victory on the season. Other racers were brave too, including Matt Plumb and Jamie Menninga who battled fiercely in the opening laps. Plumb's bid to pass Menninga fell short in spectacular style knocking him out him out on the spot. Menninga held on for second while Ryan Hunter-Reay turned in yet another mature drive to gain his second podium finish of the season.

Heading westward, the Barber Dodge Pro Series headed outside of the U.S. for the first time. The Molson Indy Vancouver in the heart of downtown Vancouver provided the backdrop for round nine. It was home territory for Michael Valiante who was looking to regain his early season form and bounce back from a summer swing that he would prefer to forget. The end of the season was drawing near and the trio of Fogarty, Rossoni and Koster could ill afford a miscue now. The front of the grid would be an all rookie affair. Hunter-Reay continued to shine snatching the pole with Andy Lally missing out the prime spot by less than one-tenth of a second. Rookie hijinx in the early going however would change the complexion of the race altogether. Hunter-Reay took the lead at the start but not without having to defend mightily against the Lally attack. On lap-2, Lally made a bold move to swipe the lead away, and when Hunter-Reay countered somewhat optimistically the two made contact with Lally the worse for wear. That put an end to Lally's day and knocked Hunter-Reay out of contention. Plumb, who had a front row seat throughout the rookie antics inherited a lead he would not surrender driving faultlessly to the checkered flag, garnering his first career victory. Koster kept his title hopes alive by finishing second while third-placed Andre Nicastro drove a stirring race, battling Valiante as well as Rossoni for the final podium spot. As for Valiante, luck lined up against him yet again as a certain podium was lost with but three laps remaining when a miscue with a backmarker sent him sailing into the wall.

Fogarty kept close to his rivals shadowing Rossoni all afternoon, never having a good opportunity on the tight street course to execute a pass.

Thus with three races remaining, only the Top-3 would figure in the final push to the series crown. Fogarty maintained his lead, albeit a shrinking one as Rossoni closed the gap to 11 points. Koster clung to his chances, but with 20 gap a victory would have to be on short order.

- George Tamayo

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Andy Lally , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Nilton Rossoni , Thed Björk , Sepp Koster , Matt Plumb