Charlotte, NC, July 25, 1997 Friday dawned dry, and remained that way all day. The final IRL practice took place, together with the FF2000 test session, FF2000 Race ...
Charlotte, NC, July 25, 1997
Friday dawned dry, and remained that way all day. The final IRL practice took place, together with the FF2000 test session, FF2000 Race #1 and IRL Fan Appreciation.
FF2000 Race #1 was the first of two 30 lap races comprising the Spawn presents U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Championship double header. These are the final two rounds of the five race USAC Oval Crown Championship-within-a-Championship, and Rounds 8 and 9 of the twelve race United States Formula Ford 2000 National Championship. The race was run on the 1.5 mile oval, stretched to 1.6 miles by the addition of a left-right chicane at the end of the front straight and onto the Turn 1 banking.
The race was highlighted by a three-way battle between Ryan Hampton (#80), Matt Sielsky (#16) and Zak Morioka (#27), who ultimately finished in that order. Pole sitter Andrea De Lorenzi (#50) fell behind early after missing the chicane on second lap, leaving a four-car lead pack of Hampton, Sielsky, Morioka and Buddy Rice (#19). Rice fell out after brushing the wall early in the race, while running in fourth closely behind Morioka.
During much of the race, Hampton and Sielsky traded the lead, alomost once a lap at times. Morioka ran as high as second during this battle. About five laps from the end, with the order Sielsky, Ryan and Morioka, Sielsky got sideways in the chicane as he encountered lapped traffic. In the ensuing scuffle, Hampton pulled out a lead which grew to almost three seconds, leaving Sielsky and Morioka to fight for second. Morioka was hampered by a lost clutch and a vibration from a flat-spotted tire, and was unable to take second away from Sielsky.
Winner Hampton (whose race strategy was "don't spin in the chicane") ran much of the day with no front brakes, and second-place finisher Sielsky with no rear brakes. Sielsky's engine was also overheating, and he felt it would have blown if the race were one lap longer. All three drivers attributed their mechanical problems to the hot Carolina sun and the hot pace of their racing.
The final support event of the day was IRL Fan Appreciation, from 7 pm to 9 pm. The garage area was opened to race fans, who were able to look at the cars and meet the drivers. The drivers autographed pictures, T-shirts and treasured racing heirlooms for long lines of fans. Team members answered questions about the cars, many questions coming from stock car fans who were fascinated by the open wheel Indianapolis racers and their blazing speed. Lug Nut, Charlotte Motor Speedway's mascot, attended the event, signing autographs for his fans and charming the crowd with his antics.
In addition to today's scheduled events, race sponsor VisionAire continued their static display of the cabin of their Vantage business aircraft. The six-place single-engine jet aircraft is aimed at smaller companies who would benefit from a company airplane but cannot afford the more expensive designs available today. Vantage features advanced composite construction and forward swept wings. The tail-mounted JT15D-5 engine is fed air from a pair of "elephant ear" inlets atop the fuselage, and propels the aircraft to a speed of 400 mph with a range of 1000 miles.
Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International