New Pacific F2000 Season Begins This Weekend at Fontana Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 3, 2008) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires kicks off a brand-new season of top-quality open-wheel competition this weekend with a pair...
New Pacific F2000 Season Begins This Weekend at Fontana
Buttonwillow, Calif. (March 3, 2008) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires kicks off a brand-new season of top-quality open-wheel competition this weekend with a pair of races at the recently renamed Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana.
The series has established an enviable reputation in recent years after nurturing the skills of a string of talented young American drivers. Since the series was founded in 2004, Joel Miller, J.R. Hildebrand and Patrick Barrett all created enough of an impression to join some of this country's most accomplished stars -- such as Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Memo Gidley, Buddy Rice and A.J. Allmendinger -- in securing prestigious Team USA Scholarships, and are now continuing to work their way up the racing ladder.
Robert Podlesni also earned a Team USA Scholarship after winning the 2006 Pacific F2000 title with Dave Freitas Racing. Forced to sit out the 2007 season due to budgetary constraints, Podlesni, now 20, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., is seeking to rekindle his career by returning to the same Fullerton, Calif.-based team.
"I have every intention of contending for the championship this season," says Podlesni, who will pilot a brand-new Van Diemen DP08 in the colors of Terminal Velocity. "There is some tremendous competition who also competed last year so by no means will it be easy, but I have no doubt we will be one of the cars to beat."
Primary opposition will stem from a four-car challenge posted by PR1 Motorsports. The Fresno, Calif.-based operation has won the championship three times in four years and has every intention of retaining the mantle claimed last year by Patrick Barrett.
Jeff Westphal, 21, from San Carlos, Calif., Max Hyatt, 21, from Santa Fe, N.M., Shaun Modisette, 20, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and Nick Freytag, 16, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., have displayed their speed in the past. Indeed all except Hyatt already have Pacific F2000 podium finishes to their credit -- but are still seeking their breakthrough victories. Hyatt, meanwhile, won a pair of East Coast F2000 races in 2007 before concentrating on his education. He is currently pursuing a double major in Psychology and Economics at Santa Clara University.
"I have been fortunate to do some preseason testing with PR1 but I have not been able to attend all of the test days due to academic conflicts and illness," says Hyatt, who joined countless others in being stricken by a flu bug the last couple of weeks. "I feel confident going into this weekend with the amount of testing I have been able to do."
Adds Westphal: "Coming from last year with seven podiums and one pole -- but no wins -- I definitely feel there is a void that I need to fill, and plan on wringing every last bit out of my car to do so."
Other potential challengers include former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick, who will continue to take on the phalanx of Van Diemen cars with his lone West Coast-based Piper DF5. Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., begins the season with renewed confidence after conducting some promising test sessions with assistance from the PR1 team's engineers. Rarick also expects to benefit from the recent amalgamation of Piper Race Cars with Doug Learned's well-respected Fast Forward Components business.
"The changes have certainly produced some positives, as one would expect with the depth in the PR1 operation," says Rarick, "but race conditions are always the litmus test."
Another veteran with high aspirations is Chuck Hulse, who earned one podium finish last year and is aiming for many more after switching from Team G.FRO to Dave Freitas Racing.
"I've been working hard in the gym," says 54-year-old Hulse, from Yorba Linda, Calif. "I know I've got some real tough opposition but I'm determined to show these kids what I can do."
The two F2000 races will form part of Vintage Auto Racing Association's Route 66 Classic Formula Festival.