Pacific F2000 Championship Rounds 1 and 2 at Auto Club Speedway Fontana, Calif. (March 9, 2008) - The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook 2008 campaign opened this past weekend at the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, ...
Pacific F2000 Championship Rounds 1 and 2 at Auto Club Speedway
Fontana, Calif. (March 9, 2008) - The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook 2008 campaign opened this past weekend at the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and the results indicate that this may be one of the most competitive seasons yet.
Saturday began with 2006 Series Champion Robert Podlesni, who returned to Dave Freitas Racing to drive the Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars Van Diemen RF08. He immediately made his presence known by taking the first pole of the season. Podlesni noted that "It is difficult at Fontana because you get such a tow on the banking that you just have to be in the right position at the right time to get a good lap." PR1 Motorsports driver Jeff Westphal in his TNT Demolition/Cacci Construction Van Diemen was just .015 seconds behind in second. The field was closely packed as the first nine drivers were within 1.043 seconds of each other.
The start was confused when Westphal's car refused to fire on the grid leaving open the outside front row position and the first three rows started single file. This had all changed by the time the field reached turn three and began to string out with Podlesni leading from PR1 Motorsports' Max Hyatt in his Performance Drink Van Diemen in second, PR1 Motorsports teammate Shaun Modisette in his Carson Trailer Van Diemen and Scott Rarick in his Piper/Fast Forward/Red Line Oil Piper. The lead was briefly exchanged between Podlesni and Hyatt which Podlesni retook and held to the end. The lead pack of four cars began to slowly inch away from the rest of the field. Podlesni said this was a difficult time of the race as he was unable to break far enough ahead and stated "At Fontana you need to have a gap of 1.1 seconds to be able to keep a driver behind but Max was only .7 back so I had work hard to keep him behind". "I also think that the four of us were a little faster when I was leading and enabled us to break away from the rest of the field". Max hounded Robert throughout the race and the first four cars continued in this order nose to tail until lap thirteen when Rarick got past Modisette for third place and the final step on the podium. When the checkered flag fell these four finished within 2.035 seconds. Hyatt said, "I had several opportunities to try to pass Robert, then three laps from the end I got loose in turn eight and Robert got a big enough advantage to hold me off". Rarick was satisfied with his third place after the jumbled start which caught him out a bit, "I mistook Max for the second place qualifier and expected him to take his place next to Robert at the start and I stayed behind him, when I should have been next to him, which cost me some at the start".
Peter Hansel driving the Comar Performance Inc., GS610 Maximum Performance Brake Fluid Van Diemen, finished seventh and was the Expert Class winner. Chuck Hulse in the Dave Freitas racing, Silicon Salvage Van Diemen finished sixth and claimed the Master's Class victory.
On Sunday PR1 Motorsports secured the front row with Jeff Westphal taking the pole by .8 of a second. "Conditions were difficult today and it was important to have someone to draft with as there was a headwind down the straight". That drafting partner turned out to be new PR1 Motorsport teammate Shaun Modisette in his Carson Trailer's Van Diemen who will also join on the front row with Jeff.
Jeff Westphal overcame early anxiety to clearly post his first win of the 2008 season for PR1 Motorsports. With minutes to go before the cars were called to grid Jeff's TNT Demolition/Cacci Construction, Van Diemen seemed to experience the same problem that kept him from leaving the grid on Saturday causing a 15th place finish. When asked how concerned he was watching his team frantically work on the car, he replied, "I tried to stay calm by talking with my teammates and not watching the team" but was confident they would solve the problem. With moments left, the car was ready and Westphal was able to assume his position at the head of the field.
At the green flag, the field took off as though it were a high speed pace lap with the first six positions 2 by 2 and nose to tail approaching turn three. All but Chuck Hulse made it through cleanly. Hulse as a result of contact spun and rejoined at the rear of the field. As the field strung out, Westphal established a clear lead over Shaun Modisette, Peter Hansel, Robert Podlesni, Nick Freytag, PR1 Motorsports, G Phactory/Sodi Kart Van Diemen, Max Hyatt, Scott Rarick and the rest. Westphal began to pull out from Modisette who claimed "Jeff was a little faster today and I could see the battle going on behind me and concentrated on doing two perfect laps to get a gap over the battle for third".
The battle for third was the best of the race with positions changing every lap. Initially the battle was between Podlesni, Freytag and Hyatt with Rarick trailing in sixth. Hyatt moved through this group on his way to a third place finish, fastest lap and the hard charger award for his climb from ninth on the grid to third at the finish. Rarick then joined the race for what was now fourth place and there was not a lap when these positions did not change and it was only the checkered flag that determined the final order, Freytag, Podlesni and Rarick. This also gave PR1 Motorsports a sweep of the top four positions and served notice that they were to be reckoned with this season.
Peter Hansel finished seventh to earn his second Expert Class win and recovering from his spin to finish eighth and take the Masters Class trophy was Chuck Hulse.
With the fastest race laps of the top eleven cars within 1.3 seconds, it indicates how competitive this series and these drivers are. There are probably six or seven drivers capable of standing on the top step of the podium this year and it will be exciting to watch as the series unfolds.
The series moves on to Willow Springs on April 5th and 6th.
-credit: pacific f2000