(Daytona Beach, Fla.) December 1, 2001 - The poker adage "It's not what you've got, it's when you've got it" easily applies to today's Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER magazine race from Daytona International Speedway as ...
(Daytona Beach, Fla.) December 1, 2001 - The poker adage "It's not what you've got, it's when you've got it" easily applies to today's Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER magazine race from Daytona International Speedway as Canadian Dan Di Leo timed the draft best to snatch victory away from Scott Poirier and Dan Kraus. The troika crossed the line three-wide, ending what was arguably the best race and, certainly the most exciting finish of the season.
The contest, which featured five different leaders over the 11 laps, held several story lines. Primarily, the National Championship was at stake, a fully-funded season in the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series valued at $195,000. Julio Campos vs. A.J. Allmendinger mano a mano. All eyes were on the pair. On lap 3, the two were engaged in a scrappy battle as Campos fought off the former karting champion heading into the bus stop. The two touched when Allmendinger unsuccessfully tried to go three-wide amid the slightly narrow confines. A spectacular crash ensued leaving Campos' car upside and bodywork strewn over the track. Neither driver was hurt. The race was black-flagged to regroup but the contest was over for both drivers. The stage was re-set for tomorrow; the title would be settled on the last day.
Despite the absence of the points leaders, the race couldn't have been more exciting. The drivers raced smart, fair and aggressively. The field ran over the 3.56-mile circuit as a train for much of the action, often bunched in packs of six or seven. Every driver seemed to use and benefit from the tows that Daytona is famous for.
More than one driver shined at Daytona. Scott Poirier, who seems able to raise his game each time he moves up from Regional to National Championship competition, was fantastic and led four laps. Florida's Scott Presti continues to impress and harbor top-5 results, earning another with his fourth place finish. Grant Maiman, who started 12th, advanced to finish in seventh. Polesitter Landon Yee suffered a miscue early on lap 1 and fell back to 12th before gamely regaining his composure, setting the fastest lap of the race and finishing in the top-5.
But the best was saved for last. As the white flag dropped, and after what seemed like countless lead changes, Warwick, New York's Dan Kraus held the advantage. He led a tight group of four towards the back stretch. However, the draft would determine the outcome of this contest. Poirier was biding his time waiting for the right moment. Kraus led the trio out of Nascar turn-4 heading toward the checkered flag. Poirier went high with Di Leo in close pursuit. As Poirier shot down, Di Leo followed to close the gap on Kraus, the final wire approaching at 125mph. Poirier beat Kraus to the line high but it was Di Leo, slotted in underneath, who was just that much quicker and able to claim his second win in the FDNC. The Canadian's margin of victory was an imperceptible 0.001 sec.
Di Leo, who scored his maiden win earlier at IRP, was elated to come out on top.
"I knew my car was good," said Markham, Ontario native. "We had the right balance and set-up for the front straight. I was confident that coming down on the last lap I'd have a good run. I just hung in there. It was really a great race; 0.001 seconds, it could have gone either way. Both those guys did a great job and I'm just happy to come away with the win."
Poirier was pleased with his result and effusive in his comments about the competition.
"It was incredible," said second place finisher Scott Poirier. "I got a good restart behind Kraus, and then we swopped back and forth, traditional Daytona running. I was pushing as hard as I could. I saw Di Leo in my mirrors and I knew he was going to be a problem on the last lap but I was concentrating on Kraus. The next thing I know, Di Leo's under me and it's a photo finish. These guy's are awesome to run with."
For the ever-improving Dan Kraus, there is no shortage of talent or goals.
"It was a great finish. My goal starting out was to race safely and stay in the top-4 so I'm very happy to finish third."
Today's results mean that only Campos and Allmendinger can win the championship tomorrow. The odds are long for the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner. In order for Allmendinger to upset the Brazilian in points and claim the championship, Allmendinger must win (with Campos scoring a ninth or worse finish) or finish second (with Campos scoring a 13th or worse result). Campos grids from pole while Allmendinger lines up from the fourteenth position.