(Lime Rock, Connecticut) October 12, 2002 - Scott Poirier -- the quiet, reverent and particularly patient racer -- stayed with Scott Speed long enough to take advantage of a late miscue by the polesitter and claim Round 13 of the Skip Barber...
(Lime Rock, Connecticut) October 12, 2002 - Scott Poirier -- the quiet, reverent and particularly patient racer -- stayed with Scott Speed long enough to take advantage of a late miscue by the polesitter and claim Round 13 of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER at rain-plagued Lime Rock Park. Speed led 24 of the 25 laps on the 1.53-mile circuit but never pulled out enough of a margin on Poirier. The two broke from the 20-car field and often gave the impression that today's finale was really a two-car race. Speed was dominant and looked like the lock to collect his first victory since Round 5, but Poirier's relentless pressure paid off when Speed slid wide in turn-1, enabling the determined Floridian to pass him for the upset. Champion-elect Grant Maiman overcame an 11th place start position to claim the final podium spot in third. Florida's Gerardo Bonilla and California's Colin Fleming round out the top-5.
Despite the wet track and cool weather, racers managed to keep their R/T 2000s out of trouble for most of the contest. There were countless spins, consistent with drivers pushing the limits of adhesion, but no crashes, wreckage or lengthy delays due to caution periods.
Seven relative newcomers chose to challenge the National Championship establishment, among them Warwick, New York's Dan Kraus and Quebec's Antoine Bessette. Bessette has experience at Lime Rock, having contested this year's Formula Dodge Eastern Regional Championship, Kraus contested the 2001 National Championship but has seen limited time in Formula cars this year. Both shined on today's main stage: Kraus landing in eighth just ahead of Bessette in ninth. Mike Marino, making his own National Championship debut, finished 12th.
Although the race had no championship implications - Maiman had secured the title in Round 12, Poirier had locked up runner-up status - the outcome of the race would determine the final participants of the Barber-CART Scholarship Runoffs. Positions 2-10 would travel to Sebring, Florida to vie for six levels of funding to contest the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series. In addition to Poirier, among the eligible are Speed, who finished the season in third, and all four of the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winners; Ward Imrie [fourth] Colin Fleming [sixth], Craig Baltzer [ninth] and Charlie Kimball [tenth]. Californian's Burt Frisselle and Robbie Montinola also factored in the top-10, fifth and eighth respectively. Al Unser earned an invitation as well with his seventh place overall result.
The top-3 in final points combined to take 10 of the 13 races this season in the National Championship. Maiman captured six wins in his second season, Poirier secured three and Speed two. Ward Imrie and Burt Frisselle claimed the balance of victories.
Following today's race, Poirier emerged from his R/T 2000 with a smile and offered a hug to his father, Ken, and to a few of his closest competitors.
"I'm very excited to have ended the season with a win," said Poirier. "I was ready to settle for second but Scott [Speed] went a bit wide in turn-1 and I was able to capitalize. It was a challenge to stay with him because visibility was so poor. But it was just a matter of being patient."
Maiman, who drove a dynamic race and picked off 8 positions to land on the podium, was finally able to celebrate his long ascension to the championship. "This season has been fantastic for me," said the Wisconsin native. "The guys in the series are great to run with. The coaching staff, the entire Skip Barber organization, and of course, my family, have been very supportive."
Perhaps also realizing that this chapter of his career was over, Poirier continued, "It's been a great season. I came up short on the championship but I'm very proud of what I accomplished as a Rookie here. I'm very proud to be a Barber-CART driver."
Although leaving Connecticut meant going home for many, it meant something different for Maiman, Poirier and Speed, who were preparing for another immediate career opportunity. Still wet from their champagne celebration, the three leapt from today's podium and into a van waiting to whisk them to Kennedy Airport for an evening flight to Paris. The three will join 12 other finalists to participate in the Red Bull F1 Driver Search program, a week of testing that will yield four fully-funded seats in European racing next year.