SEBRING, FLA. (September 30, 2001)--Mike Potekhen, of Phoenix, Ariz., won Round Thirteen of the U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision at Sebring International Raceway. Tom Dyer, of San Rafael, Calif. and Billy Asaro, of ...
SEBRING, FLA. (September 30, 2001)--Mike Potekhen, of Phoenix, Ariz., won Round Thirteen of the U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision at Sebring International Raceway. Tom Dyer, of San Rafael, Calif. and Billy Asaro, of Unionville, Ont., Can. completed the top-three. Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, won the ACC class. Jason LaPoint, of Woodburn, Ore. captured the 2001 National Championship, and Scott Rubenzer, of Brookfield, Wis., won the 2001 American Continental Championship.
With the both championships to be decided the season-finale was run under ideal weather conditions. Polesitter, Dyer, got a great start holding the leading into turn one as the field went three abreast behind him. Exiting turn two, Potekhen moved into second place ahead of No. 6 Kasemets. The lead trio remained unchanged for the opening six laps, with Potekhen and Dyer pulling away from Kasemets. On lap seven, Potekhen got a good exit out of the carousel and closed on Dyer on the front-straight. Entering turn one, Potekhen got alongside Dyer and took the lead. Dyer stayed right behind Potekhen for the next three laps, but was unable to challenge for the lead. From that point on, Potekhen began to pull away from Dyer, setting the fastest lap of the race 1:10.117 (94.984 mph). At the checkered, Potekhen, driving the No. 87 P.D.R./Twinseasons.com Van Diemen Ford, had won both rounds at Sebring and led 26 of the 40 laps.
"Wow, what a weekend," said Potekhen. "To come here and win both races I think this says alot about the team. We've been quick all year, and had some bad luck, but I think this shows what we are capable of. Hopefully this might open a few doors if I move up."
Starting on the pole, Dyer was looking at closing the season out on high note. Driving the No. 33 Cycle Shack/Menards/Cowboy Charcoals/Flamingo Hotel & Resort Van Diemen Ford, Dyer got a great start never being challenged for the lead on the opening lap. As the race progressed he came under pressure from race one winner, Potekhen. On lap seven, Potekhen was able to take the lead in turn one. Over the next few laps Dyer attempted to retake the lead, but was unable to do so. As Potekhen began to build a gap, Dyer came under attack from Kasemets. Dyer held off all his challenges, and on lap 16 Kasemets spun off course, ensuring Dyer a second place finish. The finish is Dyer's second podium in 2001.
"This is a great way to end the season," said Dyer, who last year was the ACC Champion. "I got a good start, but the car wasn't as good as yesterday in qualifying in the opening laps, and I think that helped Mike [Potekhen]. Once he got past me we were evenly matched, but I just couldn't retake the lead. A win would've been fantastic, but second is nice."
Needing to win to put pressure on LaPoint in the championship fight, Asaro came out pushing. On the opening lap, Asaro moved up from his sixth place starting position to fourth. Driving the No. 69 Keymotorsport.com/POPS Van Diemen Ford, Asaro then began battling Kasemets for third place. Asaro repeatedly got alongside and looked to have taken the position, but was unable to make it stick. On lap 17 Kasemets spun in turn two, with Asaro managing not to become involved. Unfortunately, the gap to second was too great to overcome with the number of laps remaining. The third place finish is Asaro's seventh podium of the year and gives him second in the 2001 National Championship.
"This is heartbreaking," said Asaro, who won a season-high three races. "After the incident yesterday I knew I had to win if was to have a shot a the championship. At the start of the race I think I had a car that could run upfront if given the chance, but I just could get in that position. Overall the season has been good, but it didn't end the way I wanted."
After winning the ACC class in his first-ever race, Imery was looking to repeat the feat on Sunday. At the start, Imery, driving the No. 9 Cavenas/Venezlolana de Ascensores Van Diemen Ford, had a two-car lead in the class. Almost immediately he was under attack for the class lead. On lap four, Imery made a mistake and fell three cars behind Rubenzer in the class. Imery quickly recovered and began closing on Rubenzer. By lap 11, Imery had caught Rubenzer and passed for the lead. For the remainder of the race Imery held off Rubenzer to win his second consecutive ACC race.
"To come away with two wins in my first weekend is great," said Imery, who is planning on contesting the entire 2002 season. "Things looked to be going good until I made that mistake. Following that I just concentrated on getting positions back one by one. Hopefully I can continue this success next year."
Starting last, after blowing up an engine in qualifying, LaPoint entered the race needing to work his way through the field to win the championship. In the first five laps LaPoint, in the No. 87 Infinity Motorsports/Regency Aviation/TrackMagic Van Diemen Ford, passed 12 cars. With Asaro unable to get higher than third place, LaPoint focused on driving safe and moving up as opportunities arose. At the checkered flag, LaPoint had finished ninth and secured the championship by 8 points (226-218). In his championship season LaPoint won one race and captured six podiums. In addition to winning the championship, LaPoint was awarded the Pi Research Hard Charger award for his drive.
"This is unbelievable," said LaPoint. "I knew I had try to get towards the front as fast as possible. Working through traffic everyone was great, giving me a little extra room today. My crew kept me informed on Billy's [Asaro] progress, and when I got up to ninth I knew I had enough for the championship and could just drive safe. I can't thank my crew enough for the great work they did all season long."
Going into the last race of 2001, Rubenzer knew he had to finish ahead of No. 4 Hagar to win the ACC. Driving strong in the No. 11 Storage Battery Systems/Trojan Battery Company Carbir Ford, Rubenzer battled all race long. Late in the race Hagar developed an engine problem ensuring Rubenzer the championship. Rubenzer won four races and only finished off the podium once in winning the championship. Rubenzer, who moved up five places in the race, was awarded the Taylor Engineering "Shark" award for the second consecutive day.
"This feels really good," said Rubenzer. "It was a great battle all season long with Billy [Hagar]. I had a lot fun racing with these guys and am really proud to win the championship."
Completing the top-five was Piero Rodarte, of Mexico City, Mexico and Peter Gray, of Aberdeen, Scotland.