NA-F2000: East meets West Oregon preview

East Meets West as the Cooper Tires FF2000 Championship Heads For Oregon Palmetto, Fla. (June 12, 2006) -- Four wins from four races have propelled young J.R. Hildebrand into a commanding early lead in the chase for this year's Cooper Tires ...

East Meets West as the Cooper Tires FF2000 Championship Heads For Oregon

Palmetto, Fla. (June 12, 2006) -- Four wins from four races have propelled young J.R. Hildebrand into a commanding early lead in the chase for this year's Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship. An identical record has catapulted fellow California teenager Robert Podlesni into the lead of the West Coast-based Pacific F2000 Championship.

This coming weekend, the pair will go head-to-head when the Cooper Tires series makes a rare foray west of the Rocky Mountains to the famed Portland (Ore.) International Raceway road course in support of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by G.I. Joe's.

"Each series clearly has fast drivers and teams," declares recent high school graduate Hildebrand, from Sausalito, Calif. "Being the leader of the Cooper Series, it will be even more important to come out on top for the reputation I have as a driver, as well as for the team and the series to show that it is in fact quite competitive."

Hildebrand, 18, finished a close second in the 2005 Pacific F2000 Championship, and earned a prestigious Team USA Scholarship prize to cap his first season of professional racing. This year he has taken the Cooper Series by storm. His #2 Formotion/Spy Optics/Mockett.com/Cape Motorsports Van Diemen RF05 is currently unbeaten after two races apiece at the challenging Road Atlanta and Mid-Ohio road courses.

Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., also has amassed excellent credentials, winning four of the six West Coast races held so far this season in Dave Freitas Racing's #84 Van Diemen RF03, including his last four in a row.

"I'm learning so much with this team," says Podlesni, who finished third in last year's Pacific series title chase as a rookie. "I haven't raced at Portland before -- I've only seen races from there on TV -- but I can't wait to experience it for myself. The racing will be close and competitive, and I'm going into the weekend with an open mind, looking forward to this new experience ahead of me."

Other top young contenders will include Hildebrand's Cape Motorsports teammate Dane Cameron, from Sonoma, Calif., who claimed the pole on his series debut at Road Atlanta and currently has three podium finishes to his credit with the #19 Finlay Motorsports/Jim Russell Racing School/Red Line Oil Van Diemen RF01; Andy Knight, from Christchurch, New Zealand, who is keen to improve upon his three fourth-place finishes thus far in the #33 Latimer Hotel/NAPA/Valvoline/Denso/G.FRO Van Diemen RF02; Nick Haye, from Huntington Beach, Calif., who currently lies third in the Pacific Series with a trio of second-place finishes in his #4 PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ05; and Ricardo Vassmer (#25 Meridiano Television/Santa Barbara Airlines/JDC Motorsports Van Diemen RF05), from Caracas, Venezuela, who won last year's Cooper Gold Cup series (for older Pinto-engined cars) and already has displayed prodigious pace since stepping up into the premier Zetec class this season.

This weekend's pair of 30-minute races also will feature intense competition among several talented Cooper Masters contenders (drivers over 35 years of age), including Jason Byers, from Livonia, Mich., who finished second overall in both of the Mid-Ohio races aboard his #28 A&B Refrigeration/St. Clair Motorsports Van Diemen RF03, and Portland, Ore., business owner/racer Andrew King.

"The Cooper Series is a wonderful place to showcase rising stars and real fast Masters," says King. "Teaming up with Champ Car is also a big plus -- the quality of competition, energy of the crowds, and exposure for our sponsors, Icon Time Systems and Spot Color Media, is unrivaled."

-cs-

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Dane Cameron , J.R. Hildebrand , Nick Haye