Pacific F2000 Presented by Hankook Season Intensifies with Visit to Willow Springs Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 2, 2008) -- After a top-quality season opener at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana last month, the close-fought Pacific F2000 Championship...
Pacific F2000 Presented by Hankook Season Intensifies with Visit to Willow Springs
Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 2, 2008) -- After a top-quality season opener at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana last month, the close-fought Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires is set for another exciting pair of races this weekend at the historic Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif.
Robert Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Jeff Westphal, from San Carlos, Calif., shared the victory spoils in the opening weekend of the season but will be looking for greater consistency at Willow Springs. Podlesni, who dominated the Saturday race, found his #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars/Dave Freitas Van Diemen lacking on Sunday and could manage no better than fifth. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Westphal was equally rampant on Day Two after his #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen was hobbled by a starter problem following his front row qualifying effort on Saturday. Westphal finished a distant 15th after starting from the pit lane.
"After ending up with pole, fast lap and the win, I was very positive going into Sunday's race," related Podlesni, 20, who is seeking to repeat his 2006 Pacific F2000 Championship success after sitting out the '07 season due to budgetary constraints. "But with the changing conditions, high winds and cooler track, I struggled for most of Sunday. I simply didn't have the car I had Saturday and was unable to keep the pace of Westphal or [his PR1 teammate Shaun] Modisette. All in all I was pleased with the outcome of the first weekend, but have been working hard to improve for the remainder of the season."
Westphal and PR1 Motorsports teammates Modisette (#26 Carson Trailer Van Diemen), Max Hyatt (#22 Performance Drink Van Diemen) and Nicky Freytag (#9 G Factory/Sodi Kart Van Diemen) again plan on featuring strongly at Willow Springs. Hyatt, 21, from Sant Fe, N.M., perhaps faces the toughest challenge, having not raced at Willow Springs before, but he trails Podlesni by only two points following a pair of podium finishes -- plus a fastest lap in Race Two (worth two points) -- from the opening weekend and is anxious to maintain the pressure.
"It's a great feeling to be second in the championship going into the second race weekend," said Hyatt. "I hope to get up to speed with the help of my teammates in the two days of practice before the race weekend. For the race I don't know what to expect but am hopeful I will be in the top five and gain valuable championship points."
Modisette, 20, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., was equally upbeat after the Fontana opener.
"Although I did not win either race like I was hoping, a second and a fourth is a great way to start the season," he said. "Accumulating points early is vital. This coming weekend, the plan is to drive to the front of the pack and not look back."
Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., is the youngest driver in the field, at just 16, yet has already marked his card by claiming a pair of top-five finishes.
Former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., also started off his campaign strongly aboard the #34 Piper/Fast Forward/Red Line Oil Piper DF5. Rarick currently lies fifth in the standings with 37 points, trailing Podlesni (on 51 points), Hyatt (49), Modisette (44) and Westphal (38).
"The series seems even deeper [in quality] this year," declared Rarick, who claimed a third and a sixth at the season opener. "We had a car that could win, but so did a bunch of other guys. In the Sunday race at Fontana, six cars were within one tenth [of a second] of each others' [lap] times. That's tight!
"We seem to have our program back on track," continued Rarick. "Rob Markin, my chief mechanic, has worked really hard and we seem to have exorcized some demons from the program. The help of Bobby Oergel and the PR1 guys in the testing season, plus the support of Piper/Fast Forward, had no small impact. I think we can have another good weekend at Willow Springs."
The two 30-minute sprint races -- one apiece on Saturday and Sunday, each with its own dedicated qualifying session -- will be part of VARA's High Desert Challenge at the fast and challenging 2.5-mile road course.