NA-F2000: Pikes Peak Preview

CHAMPIONSHIP DECIDED, TOP DRIVERS GUN FOR GLORY AT PPIR FINALE CHAMPION BESNARD TO SKIP FINAL WEEKEND FAIRFIELD, N.J. (September 18) – The U.S. F2000 National Championship may have already crowned David Besnard Champion, but more than 30...


FAIRFIELD, N.J. (September 18) – The U.S. F2000 National Championship may have already crowned David Besnard Champion, but more than 30 other drivers will be gunning for wins and respect in a no-holds barred season-ending doubleheader at the Children's Hospital Grand Prix at Pikes Peak International Raceway, September 25-27. Due to financial constraints, Besnard will skip the two final rounds.

The U.S. F2000 boasts the top up-and-coming drivers in open-wheel racing competing in 150 horsepower, 150 mph Ford two-liter formula race cars, providing the complete motorsports education to drivers and mechanics on their way to Indy cars. The U.S. F2000 joins the NTB Trans-Am Series, SCCA World Challenge, Spec Racer Ford Pro Series, SARA Late Models and USAC Sprint Cars at the 1.34-mile oval/road course for two 37-lap, 49.58-mile races. Both races will be nationally broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on the Speedvision Network. Saturday's race, set to start at 12:45 p.m. (MDT), will be televised Sunday, October 18 at 5:00 p.m. (EDT). Sunday's race, which begins at 11:15 a.m. (MDT), will be televised Sunday, October 25 at 5:00 p.m. (EST).

Besnard, of Sydney, Australia, wrapped-up the National and Oval Crown Championships at Atlanta Motor Speedway, August 29. The 21-year-old drove the No. 13 Primus Racing Karts Van Diemen Ford to six wins and six poles on a shoestring budget. With only ancillary items such as season wins and poles records to accomplish at Pikes Peak, Besnard and Primus team owner Jon Baytos elected to forego the finale due to financial restraints. Besnard's $50,750 and 333 points have already broken Steve Knapp's 1996 marks of $32,200 and 231 points.

While the remainder of the field is still battling for positions in the final point standings, the season-finale weekend is traditionally a time for drivers to race all-out for a win to provide momentum into their next season's racing plans.

Battling for second in the Championship are Ryan Hampton, of Glendora, Calif., and Robby McGehee, of St. Louis. Hampton, 24, saw his National and Oval Crown Championship hopes dashed on lap 23 of the 30-lap Atlanta race when he went from first to seventh in a multi-car battle into the turn one chicane. The race's final caution came out on that lap, leaving Hampton, who sat on the pole, out of the top-five and the title hunt. With three wins and two poles on the season, Hampton will look to hold on to the runner-up spot in the No. 88 American Instruments/Body Abuse Tatuus Ford.

McGehee sits 28 points behind Hampton (275 to 247) and is currently the hottest driver in the series, coming off a three-race average finish of 1.67 — capped by his second win of the season at Atlanta in the No. 2 VisionAire/Energizer Tatuus Ford. McGehee, 25, moved around Hampton in the five-race Oval Crown Championship to take second — 14 points behind Besnard, and won the most recent oval/road course-configured race at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex, May 17.

Andy Lally, of Northport, N.Y., is fourth, with 206 points — 41 behind McGehee. Driving the No. 5 Red Line Oil/Maida/Highcroft Racing Bowman Ford, Lally, 23, has five podium finishes, seven top-fives and eight top-10s this year in the first season of the Bowman chassis.

Top Rookie of the Year candidate Marc-Antoine Camirand, of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Can., completes the top-five in points despite missing the first two rounds of the season. Driving the No. 96 Key Tours/Player's Van Diemen Ford, Camirand, 19, has two poles on the season and two second-place finishes for 186 points.

Only 25 points separates positions six through 10 in the National Championship, meaning drivers will be hungry to make a big jump in the standings. Former MTV Real World cast member Mike Johnson (No. 8 PCG/Valvoline/Slick Eyewear Van Diemen Ford) is sixth, with 172 points; followed by Bobby Oergel (No. 52 DSTP/Primus/Quicksilver/Red Line Van Diemen Ford), 169; Minneapolis winner Jonathan Bottoms (No. 28 Roppe/Team Great Northern Van Diemen Ford), 164; Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 7 Hornish Bros./Fountain City Leasing Van Diemen Ford), 151; and Steve Rikert (No. 11 S&R Racing/Tatuus RC Tatuus Ford), 147.

Making their returns to Pikes Peak are two of sports' biggest names: LeMond and Foyt. Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, who finished 17th on the PPIR one-mile oval last year, continues his transition to four-wheeled racing in the No. 51 Van Diemen Ford and is currently 16th in points with two podium finishes. Larry Foyt, youngest son of A.J. Foyt, also returns for the second time in the No. 14 First National Bank of Terre Haute Tatuus Ford. Foyt is running a limited schedule this season, and has a top finish of 12th at Homestead.

In addition the series regulars, several local drivers will make their U.S. F2000 National Championship debut at PPIR, including Barry Gilbert and Jay Buerger, of Englewood, Colo., Tom Beck, of Lakewood, Colo., Alan Gilbert, of Denver, and Tom Sporney, of Parker, Colo.

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Robby McGehee , Larry Foyt , Marc-Antoine Camirand , Andy Lally , Steve Knapp , David Besnard , Ryan Hampton , Mike Johnson , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.