Barrett goes back-to-back at Buttonwillow for third straight Pacific F2000 victory BUTTONWILLOW, Calif. -- Patrick Barrett proved this weekend that he has the tricky Buttonwillow Raceway Park all figured out, as he took the pole, set fastest lap...
Barrett goes back-to-back at Buttonwillow for third straight Pacific F2000 victory
BUTTONWILLOW, Calif. -- Patrick Barrett proved this weekend that he has the tricky Buttonwillow Raceway Park all figured out, as he took the pole, set fastest lap and led flag-to-flag en route to victory in this afternoon's 15-lap Round Six of the Pacific F2000 Championship, duplicating his winning performance in Saturday's Round Five. The 17-year-old driver from Los Osos, Calif. collected his third consecutive series win behind the wheel of the No. 3 Russell Racing School/Alpinestars/GoPro/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen and enters the midway point of the season with a 38-point lead in the championship chase.
Finishing second, just .802 seconds back, was teammate Tom Merrill in the No. 81 Merrill Farms/Smith & Hook Wineries/Winner's Circle/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen, who equalled his career-best had opened a whopping 21.1-second gap on the No. 7 Anglo-American Racing/BWM Engineering Van Diemen of Chris Spreitzer, who rounded out the podium. Merrill, a series rookie, climbs to fourth in the points on the strength of his back-to-back runner-up finishes this weekend.
At the drop of the green, Barrett, who completed the 45-mile race in 26 minutes, 32.004 seconds at an average speed of 102.437 mph, said he was able to take off like a shot, but about halfway through the race, changing track conditions threw off the delicate balance just enough to make him concerned.
"The track started getting really hot and greasy with six or seven laps to go, and the GoPro car just wasn't staying hooked up like it was at the start. But I could still lay down some pretty good laptimes and even though (Merrill) was reeling me in a bit at the end, I knew he didn't have enough time to catch me. I think keeping the Hankook tires in good shape yesterday really helped today, because I was able to run smooth and not worry so much about burning them off today."
Barrett, who has now won four of the six races contested thus far this season, is brimming with confidence in his performance and that of his PR1 Motorsports team, and he believes that if the team just keeps working together, he can keep winning. With the win, pole and fastest lap, Barrett collected the maximum available 34 points on the day, doubling his advantage over Spreitzer in the battle for the points crown. Barrett now leads 176-138. That title has become even more valuable, as PR1 Motorsports recently announced that the Pacific F2000 champion would be awarded a fully-supported test day in a Mazda-powered Swift Atlantic car, preparing the title-winner to take the step up to Champ Car Atlantic competition.
"Everything went just about as good as it can get this weekend," Barrett said. "Yesterday, PR1 had a huge accomplishment in sweeping the podium for the first time in three years, and we did another great job today. I really feel that we can make the second half of the season as good as the first."
For his part, Merrill, who started second, said he was able to close the gap through judicious use of his car's cockpit-adjustable anti-roll bars. By tweaking on the setup in the middle of the race, he found just a touch more grip, and that gave him the advantage he needed to try and chase down his teammate.
"I found a little something there at the end with the anti-roll bar, but it was a little too late," Merrill said. "It was going to be tough to try to pass anyway, because Pat and I have such equal equipment. The PR1 crew did a great job putting together really fast cars for both of us, and I feel confident every time I strap in that I'm going to have one of the best cars on the grid."
Spreitzer, who sits second in the points, lost ground to Patrick this weekend, but he's not too disappointed with the result. The noted that he hasn't finished outside the top-5 this season. He said he just couldn't quite keep the pace with the PR1 teammates in first and second. The challenge of the twisting, 3.0-mile road course was compounded by Spreitzer's battle with the flu, which hit him on Friday during testing.
"Right after I went into the first turn, the front two just pulled straight away from me, and I pulled out on fourth place," Spreitzer said. "This place is so long, it tends to string everyone out, which puts a real premium on consistency. I tried to just run my own race and hope that I could close the gap a bit, but the BWM Engineering car didn't seem to quite have enough grip in some turns that the PR1 cars were really hooked up in. There's six races to go and we'll just try to get a couple wins and do what we can to make up the points."
In a strong rookie performance, Max Hyatt brought his No. 25 Front Range Motorsports Van Diemen home in fourth, a career-best finish coming in just his fourth Pacific F2000 start. For his efforts, Hyatt won the Williams Racing Development Drive of the Race Award. Behind him came Mitchell Cunningham in the No. 99 Windward Properties/Cunningham Construction/Sniper Systems Van Diemen, finishing fifth.
One of the best battles of the race was waged for sixth place, as second-generation driver Ricky Taylor, making just his second-ever Pacific F2000 start in the No. 96 GS610 Maximum Performance Brake Fluid/SunTrust/Comar Performance Van Diemen, beat out series veteran Nicky Freytag for the spot by just six inches at the flag. Taylor, the son of sports car legend Wayne Taylor, had challenged Freytag's No. 9 BWM Engineering Van Diemen for the position for several laps before finding a way around at the last possible moment. For his valiant but unsuccessful effort to hold off Taylor, Freytag won the Primus Racing Parts Award.
Coming home in eighth was the No. 19 Silicon Salvage/Team G.FRO Van Diemen of Chuck Hulse, who captured the Masters category victory, followed by teammate Philip Metzger in ninth, driving the No. 29 Phoebe Hair/Sovereign Energy/Team G.FRO Van Diemen. Completing the top-10, Scott Rarick took top honors in the Expert category in his No. 34 Red Line Oil/Hertfelder Motorsports Piper -- quite the comeback, considering that Rarick's car was one of three whose races were ended in a first-lap, first-turn melee on Saturday.
Ira Fierberg, whose No. 27 Cole Morgan/Personal Injury Law/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen was eliminated in that crash as well, also made a statement, driving from last on the grid up to 14th to capture the Hard Charger Award.
The Pacific F2000 Championship will take a two-month break before heading to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah for the first time on July 13-15. Rounds Seven and Eight of the championship will be run in support of the NASCAR Grand National West Series, putting the rising stars of the Pacific F2000 Series on a major racing stage. Practice is set for Friday, with qualifying and racing on Saturday and Sunday.
-credit: pacific f2000