SBRS: Cleveland Race Report

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 27) - For Nilton Rossoni, it was a simple matter of attending to unfinished business in Round 5 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix Sunday morning. It was an investment that paid off with a...

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 27) - For Nilton Rossoni, it was a simple matter of attending to unfinished business in Round 5 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix Sunday morning.

It was an investment that paid off with a pair of handsome dividends. The 18 year-old native of Curitiba, Brazil passed past pole sitter Todd Snyder on the track in to turn three, then fought off a late challenge by Switzerland's Iradj Alexander to post his first victory of the season on the 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport circuit. The win, which paid $12,000, also vaulted Rossoni into the points lead in the 12-race championship.

"Last year I had the fastest car by far and I got hit by someone in the first turn. This year, my car was not the fastest in qualifying, but I knew that I had a good race car," said Rossoni, who won the pole at the track in 1998. "I just wanted to be clean through the first corner and then do my race."

The race started under threatening conditions, as intermittent rain showers in the preceding hours left the drivers' setup decision twisted in the swirling breeze off Lake Erie. A last-minute decision by Barber Dodge officials started all 24 cars on slicks, a choice which was vindicated as the skies brightened halfway through the 40-minute timed race. Snyder got the jump at the start and motored off to build a substantial lead, followed reigning series champion Jeff Simmons, Rossoni, fifth-place starter Alexander and third-starter Rocky Moran Jr.

Rossoni slipped past Simmons and patiently stalked Snyder, closing the distance by lap nine to within a car length as a brief sprinkle passed overhead. At the same time, Simmons, Moran and John McCaig were engaged in a spirited battle for the fourth position which involved several brief moments of wheel-to-wheel contact. Moran dropped back with a bent right front wing and a cut tire which ultimately put him out of the race and the points lead on lap 18.

On lap 11, Rossoni used his draft slingshot on the back straight to gather enough momentum to slip by Snyder, as Alexander followed the Brazilian. McCaig continued to battle with Simmons when Snyder started to slip from the pace with handling problems while Rossoni pulled out to a sizeable lead on Alexander.

The Swiss driver, who enjoyed the best race of his stateside career, began to pick up the pace and recorded the fastest race lap on lap 24 (1:14.727/101.457 mph) and he closed to the back wing of Rossoni. But unable to find sufficient safe passing space, Alexander tucked back and pronounced himself content with his first Barber Dodge podium finish 6.182 seconds back.

"I started from fifth position and my car was real easy to drive and I made a really good pass at the beginning of the race," Alexander said. "When I was in back of Nilton, my setup was good, but Nilton's car took away my wind (downforce) and I was sliding in the turns. I was sure that it was better in second place than to crash trying to pass Nilton."

Simmons passed Snyder just before the white flag came out on lap 31 to secure the final spot on the podium. Snyder ended up fourth, followed by McCaig, Jamie Menninga of Pella, Iowa, and Portola Valley, Calif. native Jon Fogarty. Townsend Bell, Peter Boss and Roger Yasukawa completed the top 10 finishers in the caution-free race.

In the championship chase, both Rossoni and Simmons have 61 points, with Rossoni getting the overall nod on a tiebreaker. Moran, who ended up 21st, slipped back to third with 59 points, followed by Bell (55) and Sepp Koster (45).

Round 6 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series will be held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin July 11 with the CART FedEx Championship Series. NOTES: Brent Sherman of Northbrook, Ill. earned an additional $500 by winning Progressive Custom Wheels Most Progressive Driver Award. Sherman started 23rd and finished 17th.

Grant Wilson earned a $100 cash bonus and award for his selection as the Barber Dodge Pro Series Mechanic of the Race. Wilson is a veteran motor specialist in the Pro Series crew.

Rossoni won both the pole and race at Road America last year. Andy Boss was the highest Barber Dodge alum in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights race. Chris Menninga ended up in 10th place, while Geoff Boss finished 13th. Tony Renna was involved in a first-turn incident that took out three of the top qualifiers and ended up in 19th place.

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Results Sunday from the 40-minute timed Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix on the 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport road circuit with finishing position, starting position, driver, hometown or country, laps, reason out (if any), and prize money. All cars are identical Reynard Dodge V6, open-wheel, single-seat race cars on Michelin racing tires. 1 (4) Nilton Rossoni/Curitiba, Brazil, 101.025 mph, 32. $12000 2 (5) Iradj Alexander/Giubiasco,Switzerland, 32, $8000 3 (2) Jeff Simmons/East Granby, Conn., 32, $6000 4 (1) Todd Snyder/Sheffield, Mass., 32, $4000 5 (7) John McCaig/Victoria, B.C., Canada, 32, $2500 6 (10) Jamie Menninga/Pella, Iowa, 32, $2000 7 (11) Jon Fogarty/Portola Valley, Calif., 32, $1800 8 (13) Townsend Bell/Costa Mesa, Calif., 32, $1700 9 (6) Peter Boss/Narragansett, R.I., 32, $1600 10 (12) Roger Yasukawa/Santa Monica, Calif., 32, $1500 11 (15) Tim Bergmeister/Bergheim,Germany, 32, $1400 12 (8) Sepp Koster/The Netherlands, 32, $1300 13 (14) Brian Pelke/Lansing, Ill., 32, $1200 14 (18) Matt Plumb/Unionville, Pa., 32, $1100 15 (16) Vanderlan Junior/Goiania, Brazil, 32, $1000 16 (9) Memo Rojas, Jr./Mexico City, Mexico, 32, $500 17 (23) Brent Sherman/ Northbrook, Ill., 32, $1000 18 (19) R. B. Stiewing/Lime Rock, Conn., 32, $500 19 (22) Kip Gulseth/Manitowoc, Wisc., 31, $500 20 (17) Juan Jose Font/Caracas,Venezuela, 31, $500 21 (3) Rocky Moran, Jr./Coto de Caza, Calif., 18, $500, Contact 22 (24) Scott Mayer/Franklin, Wis., 13, $500, Retired 23 (21) Rodrigo Bernardes/Sao Paulo, Brazil, 10, $500, Contact 24 (20) Alexandre Sperafico/Parana, Brazil, 7, $500, Contact

LENGTH OF RACE: 32 Laps of 2.106 Mile Circuit for 67.392 miles TIME OF RACE: 40 Minutes, 45.059 seconds AVERAGE SPEED: 99.225 New Record MARGIN OF VICTORY: 6.182 Seconds LAP LEADERS: Todd Snyder, Laps 1-11, Nilton Rossoni Laps 12-32 FASTEST RACE LAP: Iradj Alexander, 1:14.727(101.457 mph), Lap 24 New Record FASTEST QUALIFIER: Todd Snyder, 1:14.078(102.346 mph), New Record PROGRESSIVE CUSTOM WHEELS MOST PROGRESSIVE DRIVER: Brent Sherman, From 23rd to 17th TOTAL PAYOUT: $52,100

Points: 1) Rossoni, 61 2) Simmons, 61 3) Moran, 59 4) Bell, 55 5) Koster, 45 6) Boss, 42 7) Rojas, 33 8) Menninga, 30 9) Fogarty, 28 10) Plumb, 25

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Peter Boss , Jon Fogarty , Rocky Moran Jr. , Chris Menninga , Townsend Bell , Brent Sherman , Memo Rojas , Roger Yasukawa , Nilton Rossoni , Sepp Koster , Tony Renna , Scott Mayer , Jeff Simmons , Geoff Boss , Todd Snyder , Matt Plumb , Rocky Moran , Tim Bergmeister , Alexander Iradj