(Clermont, Ind.) June 15, 2002 - Barber-CART Scholarship driver Scott Poirier gave his dad, Ken, a Father's Day gift of sorts by winning rounds 7 and 8 of the Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER to seize the championship points...
(Clermont, Ind.) June 15, 2002 - Barber-CART Scholarship driver Scott Poirier gave his dad, Ken, a Father's Day gift of sorts by winning rounds 7 and 8 of the Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER to seize the championship points lead from an idle Scott Speed. As the 2002 season heads to the back stretch, the Floridian made a statement by gamely capturing 41 of a possible 42 points to build a 15 point margin over Grant Maiman with five rounds to go. Rain dogged the 2.5-mile road course on Friday, causing several events to be carried over to Saturday's schedule. National Championship drivers had to qualify once and race twice under the threat of more inclement weather. Poirier found the hectic pace to his liking, making the most of what to many was a challenging situation.
In the Round 7 opener, Poirier took the point from polesitter and series rival Grant Maiman after one lap, then held off all challengers over the final 15 of 16 laps to claim his maiden victory in the Official Amateur National Championship of CART. Barber-CART Scholarship winner Ward Imrie and Telmex driver Luis Pelayo advanced to join Poirier on the podium in second and third. For the most part, Poirier made it look easy, building a commanding lead despite one caution period and taking the win by over a three second margin.
Formula Dodge Western Regional Champion Robbie Montinola, who suffered a poor start, was on a tear and upset Maiman for P2 on lap 4. The Californian maintained second position for eight of the next nine laps and appeared to be on target for a podium finish when he hit the curbing in fast sweeping turn-1 and fell hard out of contention. Imrie inherited the position and led Pelayo to the final stripe. Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Charlie Kimball, who suffered from mechanical woes in earlier rounds, drove a heady race and picked off seven positions en route to his 10th place result. Poleitter Grant Maiman dropped back uncharacteristically to finish fourth ahead of Brazilian Jonatan Jorge, in fifth.
In subsequent Round 8 action, Poirier had the nod starting from pole but lost his advantage when second-place starter Luis Pelayo got off a better start and led the field into turn-1. Pelayo paced Poirier as the two broke away to scrap it out alone. The leaders opened up a gap over third place holder Robbie Montinola, who raced unmolested for most of the contest. The Californian, undaunted by his late exit from Round 7, was determined to land on the podium and capture much-needed championship points. Meanwhile, Brazilian Jonatan Jorge and Canadian Ward Imrie battled for fourth position, exchanging the lead several times over the 15-turn circuit. Imrie, by virtue of a nifty pass in the Carousel, emerged on top of this battle, taking P4 with two laps to go and making it stick. Charlie Kimball distinguished himself again by ascending seven spots to land in the top-6, allowing him to earn most progressive driver honors twice in one day. More importantly, the strong showing may provide the confidence the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner will need to challenge over the final five rounds.
As the race wound down, Pelayo appeared headed for his first FDNC win but Poirier was just about to go to work. With his analysis complete and a careful measurement of his options recorded, Poirier successfully popped on the Mexican in turn-6 with four laps to go. The Floridian built a slight margin over Pelayo, never letting him close enough to attempt a pass, and Poirier was on his way to a second consecutive FDNC victory.
For the rookie Pelayo, who declared at Putnam Park that he would lead more races and find the podium again, he was right on both counts.
"Putnam Park [Rounds 5 and 6] may have been a turning point for my season. I'm very pleased I was able to come to IRP and put 30 championship points on the board. This gives me tremendous confidence going to the latter rounds. I'd like to thank my sponsors Escuderia Telmex, Quaker State, Tecate, Canel's and LNB for the opportunity to contest this very competitive series."
Montinola's third place in Round 8 may be the start to a strong second-half and allow him to meet expectations.
"I felt comfortable out there," said the second-year racer. "I needed to keep the car on track and make sure I had a podium result. I had Scott [Poirier] and Luis [Pelayo] in front of me all race running at the same speed so I knew I was on pace. I'm really excited to be on the podium. I had some bad luck early this season but feel like my season is turning around."
For Poirier, owner of multiple victories in Regional play as well as the Southern Series title, victory at the National Championship level couldn't have come at a better time.
"It's very exciting to be at the top of the podium finally. It's been great here at IRP. I feel like I drove very well, practically a mistake-free weekend. I made a point of not watching what was going on behind me in both races and was able to stay extremely focused and pick up a pair of wins."
His two-race bonanza means he takes control of the series lead, a fact he is reticent to discuss.
"It's a bit early to talk about championships at this point. I need to run one race at a time. Any one of these drivers can win these last five races." He continued, "It's a credit to the Barber-CART ladder system that this series is so competitive. I'd like to thank the Skip Barber and the CART organization for this opportunity to race. I'm very excited to be representing them."