NA-F2000: Pacific F2000: Buttonwillow preview

Teenager Robert Podlesni Seeks to Extend F2000 Points Lead at Buttonwillow Full Slate of Races and Exhibitions Featured in VARA's 11th Annual British Extravaganza Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 25, 2006) -- A packed schedule of events this...

Teenager Robert Podlesni Seeks to Extend F2000 Points Lead at Buttonwillow

Full Slate of Races and Exhibitions Featured in VARA's 11th Annual British Extravaganza

Buttonwillow, Calif. (April 25, 2006) -- A packed schedule of events this weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway near Bakersfield, Calif., will feature two more races counting toward the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook, with talented 18-year-old Robert Podlesni seeking to extend his series points lead.

Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., has made startling progress since his car racing debut just over one year ago. The personable youngster claimed his first victory at Buttonwillow last Labor Day weekend, and followed up with another pair of wins -- on a different course configuration at the same venue -- later that month. After earning third place in the 2005 championship, "Poodles" has continued his rise to prominence this year, claiming a pair of third-place finishes in the season opener at Phoenix International Raceway in February and then winning twice at California Speedway last month with Dave Freitas Racing's #84 Van Diemen RF03.

"I love racing at Buttonwillow and hope to repeat last year's performance," Podlesni says. "Being that this is the first time I have led the Pacific F2000 points, it is not only very exciting, but also extremely motivating."

Podlesni, however, is under no illusions: "In the first four races a variety of drivers have shown they have the package to run up front," he continues. "In my mind it's anyone's race to win."

A mix of experienced veterans and talented youngsters will line up against Podlesni this weekend, including fellow Californians Tim Harris, from Irvine, and Nick Haye, from Huntington Beach, both of whom already have podium finishes to their credit this season.

Harris, who took his #20 Apex Fire Systems/Carson Trailer/Ray Stephens Racing Mygale SJ05 to a maiden victory at Phoenix, currently lies just 11 points adrift of Podlesni in the overall standings. Haye, meanwhile, in his rookie campaign, holds third place after finishing second in both of the two most recent races. Haye, 18, who contested the East Coast-based Cooper Series last year, has progressed rapidly since joining the Pacific F2000 series' defending champion team, PR1 Motorsports, and will be looking to claim his first victory at the wheel of his #4 Mygale SJ05.

Former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick will add further to the chassis variety, taking on the plethora of European-designed Van Diemens and Mygales with his American-made #34 Red Line Oil Piper DF5.

"A unique car is difficult because we have no experience to go on other than what we learn with every lap and every session," says Rarick, who recorded his best finish to date in his most recent outing at California Speedway. "So far the car has facilitated a good learning curve as it works well and does what you'd expect when changes are made."

Rarick, from Santa Monica, fully expects to continue his steady progress this weekend, especially on a track he knows well: "Some of my fondest memories are at Buttonwillow. I have won races in multiple classes there and hold track records in Formula Ford in several configurations."

Others to keep an eye on include Bakersfield's Les Phillips, who currently leads the Masters point standings (for drivers over 40 years of age) in his #89 Swiss Implants/Porterfield Brakes Mygale SJ04; John Lombardo Jr., from Brea, who won at Buttonwillow last year in the #30 Napa Auto Parts/Valvoline/Denso Van Diemen RF02; G.FRO teammate Chris Hundley, from North Hollywood, in the #31NAPA/Denso/The Limousine Connection Van Diemen RF05; and highly touted 14-year-old (yes, 14-year-old) Nicky Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., who will be making his professional debut for Bill Wilson Motorsports in the #9 Van Diemen RF06 alongside another impressive youngster, 19-year-old Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz., in the #7 Anglo American Road Racing/Climatec Inc. Van Diemen RF02.

Around two dozen cars are expected for this weekend's races, which will take place at 11:25 am on Saturday, April 29, and 11:15 am on Sunday. Admission to Buttonwillow Raceway costs just $10 for the entire weekend.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Nick Haye