NA-F2000: Atland Race Decides Championship

FAIRFIELD, N.J. (August 31, 1998) -- With a second-place Atlanta Motor Speedway finish, David Besnard, of Sydney, Australia, clinched the U.S. F2000 National Championship. By virtue of his second-place finish and Ryan Hampton's ...

FAIRFIELD, N.J. (August 31, 1998) -- With a second-place Atlanta Motor Speedway finish, David Besnard, of Sydney, Australia, clinched the U.S. F2000 National Championship.

By virtue of his second-place finish and Ryan Hampton's seventh-place finish, Besnard took a 333 to 275 point lead going into the final two races of the season at Pikes Peak International Raceway, September 26-27. Besnard also won the U.S. F2000 Oval Crown Championship, comprised of the five 1998 oval races.

"Obviously, I'm very, very happy to win the title -- it's a dream come true for me," said Besnard. "Our team was absolutely great all season. I'd especially like to thank Jon Baytos at Primus Racing for making this year happen, John Hayes -- the best engineer in the series and, of course, my father, Jeff Besnard.

"I'm glad the title is wrapped-up because now I can really go racing in the last two rounds instead of being so careful," he added. "We're going after the season wins and poles records."

Besnard opened the season January 24 at Walt Disney World Speedway in thrilling fashion with a run from 31st take the lead from Robby McGehee on the penultimate lap, scoring his first career win. Two months later at Phoenix International Raceway, Besnard took his first career pole and led flag-to-flag, again topping McGehee.

The 21-year-old former Australian Formula Ford Champion became the first driver to open the U.S. F2000 season with three wins at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex May 14. Besnard put on a display of car control and tactical savvy, sliding the No. 13 Primus Racing Karts Van Diemen Ford after having his rear wing knocked off in a mid-race accident with Hampton. The next day, Besnard finished second to McGehee, taking a 37-point lead in the Championship going into the May 29-30 Watkins Glen doubleheader.

In the next three races, Besnard built up a commanding 50-point lead with a win and a fourth place finish in the two Watkins Glen rounds and a dominating flag-to-flag drive at Mid-Ohio June 14.

The Sprint PCS Grand Prix of Minnesota was Besnard's worst outing, although he made the race exciting with a charge through the field to second place after an early spin before an accident put him out, allowing Hampton to cut the points lead back to 37.

The July 24-25 Charlotte doubleheader was Hampton's weekend, as he won both races from the pole -- cutting the lead to 19 with Besnard's third- and fourth-place efforts. Besnard would record another flag-to-flag win at Mid-Ohio August 8, and coupled with Hampton's 36th-place after an accident, moved him out to a 51-point advantage heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The pivotal point in the Championship was the lap-23 restart at Atlanta, in which Hampton went from first to seventh just as the race's final caution was brought out. The 30-lap race ended under caution, dashing Hampton's title hopes.

"I think if I would have had just one more lap of green I could have gotten back onto the podium, but I guess that's just racing," said Hampton, of Glendora, Calif. "I congratulate David on a great season, and wish him the best in whatever he goes into next. We are going to shoot for a couple more wins at Pikes Peak though -- the Championship may be decided, but the season's not over."

With two races remaining, Besnard has already set the season earnings mark with $50,750 (eclipsing Steve Knapp's 1996 total of $32,200) and points mark with 333 (231 points, Knapp, 1996). Besnard will attempt to break both the season records for wins (seven, Chris Simmons, 1993) and poles (seven, Knapp, 1996) at PPIR. He currently has six each, with three of his poles standing as records (Phoenix, Homestead and Mid-Ohio). Besnard has also set six fastest race laps, including records at Walt Disney World, Homestead, Minneapolis and Charlotte.

While Besnard has not yet announced his plans for 1999, he will have a busy October following the PPIR finale, with a possible ride in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship finale at Houston, October 4; a ride in Le Petit LeMans in a Ford Riley & Scott at Road Atlanta, October 11; the Euro Cup at Brands Hatch, England, October 18; and the Formula Ford World Finals at Brands Hatch, October 25.

The Formula Ford World Finals is one of several opportunities Besnard earns with the U.S. F2000 Career Options package. In addition to the fully-funded Van Diemen works ride, Besnard earns a free test in one of A.J. Foyt Enterprises Indy Racing League cars, a free test in an Atlantic car and financial assistance for 1999 in either Atlantics or the Dayton/PPG Indy Lights Series.

"David is one of the best young talents in the world, and we're proud to have been an important part of his development," said series co-promoter Mike Foschi. "We look forward to an exciting final weekend at Pikes Peak as the remainder of the National Championship sorts itself out."

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Robby McGehee , Steve Knapp , David Besnard , Ryan Hampton , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises