Pro Series 2000 review, part IV

A week after round nine in Vancouver, the barber Dodge Pro Series would travel down the Pacific Coast to the Monterey Peninsula. The series was heading into its final three-race swing, and what had been suspected throughout the summer would be ...

A week after round nine in Vancouver, the barber Dodge Pro Series would travel down the Pacific Coast to the Monterey Peninsula. The series was heading into its final three-race swing, and what had been suspected throughout the summer would be bared out in the form of a Jon Fogarty versus Nilton Rossoni battle for the crown.

Laguna Seca Raceway was the host for round ten. Rossoni capped off a dominant weekend leading every session to take victory number five. He had to put up with a tenacious Matt Plumb, who now with a taste for victory a week ago in Vancouver wanted more. Plumb took over the lead from polesitter Rossoni early, but the Brazilian was not about to let a perfect weekend get away from him. At the perilous Corkscrew Corner, Rossoni forced the issue barging his way back into the lead. Plumb went spinning in the process, collecting a hapless Jamie Menninga in the process. Koster turned in the drive of the race. Following a misfortune in final qualifying that relegated him toward the back of the field; he scythed through the pack making short order of everyone in his way. Coming from17th place, he threatened for a third-place finish briefly until his Barber Dodge Reynard cried mercy, snapping a toe link, sending him into the gravel trap. That would put an end to his title aspirations, yet the at least the Dutchman went out while giving it a 110%. Fogarty finished runner-up to Rossoni thereby cutting his losses, but was his championship claim slipping away? His lead whittled away to just six-points ahead of Rossoni. Andy Lally bounced back from his Vancouver debacle to record another podium finish in third.

The penultimate round rejoined the ALMS trail for the first time since the season opener at Sebring. The sinuous challenges of Road Atlanta awaited the Pro Series drivers and it was Michael Valiante who threw down the gauntlet to at last claim victory. A largely disappointing season was forgotten as the Canadian captured the pole and the flag to flag win, proving once and for all that his talents were real. Plumb finished second while Rossoni finished third. Fogarty had a miserable race making slight contact with another car at the start, leaving him with a skewed front wing and a title that had all but slipped away. Rossoni headed into the final round needing only a Top-10 finish to clinch.

The final event of the year, The Racing For Kids Grand Prix presented by the Barber Dodge Pro Series was a stand-alone event, the first in series history. The infield course coupled with turns-3 and 4 of the oval at the Homestead-Miami Speedway provided the playing field. Menninga captured his first career pole, but it was Rossoni who would win the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Championship in high style by taking his sixth win of the year. He didn't have to, but a race is there to be won, and title or not, winning races is what it's all about for the 19-year old Brazilian. Koster drove a stupendous race, battling a stomach flu and stifling heat and humidity to shadow Rossoni all the way to the flag, even leading for one brief lap. Alexandre Sperafico finished third, a career high for him.

Thus would finish the year, Rossoni winning by a clear 20-point margin over Fogarty with Koster third in the overall. Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed the Rookie of the Year honors, finishing his debut season in fifth overall. Afterwards, Rossoni claimed that he always felt he could have won the title in '99 and that for 2000, nothing less than a title would do. Six wins on the year proved that he was the racer to beat all season long in spite of trailing Fogarty for much of the year. Fogarty for his part showed that on any given day, he is a racer fair and square and will greet the challenges of any who dare put them forth. Koster too showed heart and tenacity throughout the year likewise demonstrating that he too has the stuff that racers are made of.

At the end of the 2000 Season, here's what the Top-15 looked like (ten best finishes count toward overall, raw points shown in parenthesis): <pre> Nilton Rossoni 175 (178)
Jon Fogarty, 155 (163)
Sepp Koster, 130 (139)
Matt Plumb, 112
Ryan Hunter-Reay, 104 (110)
Michael Valiante, 97
Roger Yasukawa, 94
Jamie Menninga, 86
Alexandre Sperafico, 85
Thed Bjork 83
Andy Lally, 74
Andre Nicastro 69
Peter Boss, 54
Brent Sherman, 41
Marc Breuers 36

-George Tamayo

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Peter Boss , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Andy Lally , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Brent Sherman , Marc Breuers , Roger Yasukawa , Nilton Rossoni , Thed Björk , Sepp Koster , Matt Plumb