Series Leader Mike Forest Heads a Strong 31-car Entry to Infineon Raceway Buttonwillow, Calif. (July 13, 2005) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire will provide a pair of extremely competitive races...
Series Leader Mike Forest Heads a Strong 31-car Entry to Infineon Raceway
Buttonwillow, Calif. (July 13, 2005) -- The Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Mickey Thompson Tires/Cooper Tire will provide a pair of extremely competitive races this weekend at Infineon Raceway, near Sonoma, Calif., as part of an action-packed agenda highlighted by the Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma, Round Five of the 2005 American Le Mans Series.
An impressive entry of 31 cars has been assembled, featuring an intriguing mix of exciting young talent and experienced veterans who all have one goal in mind: victory.
The list of potential winners is extensive and is headed by current championship leader Mike Forest, who won each of the first four races in the #8 Dynacor/Miracle Sealants/Earth Water Mygale SJ04. Forest, from Edmonton, Canada, went on to claim the special "Spring Cup" trophy by virtue of accumulating the most championship points during the first half of the 12-race season. (This weekend marks the beginning of the second half of the campaign; the driver who earns the most points from the final six races will claim the "Summer Cup.")
The second-generation racer confirmed his promise in a recent foray to the East Coast-based Cooper Tires Championship Series for Formula Ford 2000 cars at Cleveland, Ohio. Forest qualified on the pole for Race One and finished fourth, then made a sensational start to Race Two, vaulting from ninth on the grid into the lead before unfortunately tangling wheels with PR1 Motorsports teammate J.R. Hildebrand and crashing heavily.
"I'm still very sore and I didn't get to test at Infineon last week with everyone else, but I love the track [he won both Pacific F2000 races at Infineon last fall] and I know the PR1 team will give me a great car," says Forest, who recently graduated from the University of Alberta with a major in finance and is seeking to extend his championship lead as an advance celebration of his 24th birthday next week.
Forest's principal rivals will include teenaged teammate phenom Hildebrand, who has displayed remarkable consistency in his very first season of professional racing. Hildebrand, 17, from Sausalito, Calif., has finished on the podium in all six races so far and currently trails Forest by just 12 points, 112-100, in the overall title chase.
Fresno-based PR1 Motorsports also will field identical cars for veteran Al Salvo, from Arcadia, Calif., and another rising local talent, Dane Cameron. The 16-year-old from Sonoma currently leads the SCCA Formula Russell Championship, winning three of the first 10 races despite his rookie status. This weekend Cameron will make his professional debut with support from Rick Waddell's Drive4USA program.
Fellow teenagers Joel Miller and Robert Podlesni also will be looking to make their mark.
Miller, 17, from Hesperia, Calif., will drive the #96 Burns Truck & Trailer/Comar Performance/Tony Kart Van Diemen RF02, owned by auto racing writer/broadcaster Jeremy Shaw and accomplished race engineer Peter Hansel. Miller won once at California Speedway and finished on the podium in three of the four F2000 races he contested last year (as a 15-year-old) before his funds ran dry. This year he has confirmed his status as one of the nation's most promising young drivers by posting a string of top results in the Snap-On Stars of Karting ICA West division.
Former karting rival Podlesni, 18, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., also has shown great promise in his rookie season of car racing, claiming a pair of top-five finishes in the #84 Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen RF03.
Other likely contenders include veterans John Lombardo Jr. (#30 Napa Auto Parts/Valvoline/Denso/P-1 Racing Van Diemen RF02), from Brea, Calif.; 2004 SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick (#34 Redline Oil/Hertfelder Racing Van Diemen RF03), from Santa Monica, Calif.; and Tim Harris, from Irvine, Calif., who, despite placing third in the championship, recently traded his Van Diemen for a brand-new Mygale SJ05 chassis which will make its debut this weekend in the colors of Carson Trailer/Mihm's Truck Repair/Ray Stephens Racing.