(Sebring, Fla.) Apr. 29, 2001 - The second round of the Formula Dodge National Championship took on a distinctively South American flavor as Peru's Juan Manuel Polar battled with and eventually bested Brazil's Julio Campos in a race decided at...
(Sebring, Fla.) Apr. 29, 2001 - The second round of the Formula Dodge National Championship took on a distinctively South American flavor as Peru's Juan Manuel Polar battled with and eventually bested Brazil's Julio Campos in a race decided at the checkered flag. Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger completed a fantastic weekend, recovering from two crashes during practice to take the final podium spot in only his second car race.
Polar took the point early from polesitter Jonathan Bomarito just as the green flag fell, then poured it on into turn-1 of the 3.61-mile circuit. Campos nipped at Polar for most of the day, engaging the Peruvian hot shoe in an 11-lap chess match. The Brazilian had Polar checking his mirrors constantly and was able to pass the leader for the first time between turns-1 and 2. The two would volley the point several times in electrifying race action.
Meanwhile, Allmendinger, Scott Presti, and Tophie Stewart occupied the 3-4-5 positions for most of the afternoon searching for a spot on the podium. Stewart, the winner in Round 1, was driving a spirited race and was in the mix despite having started in thirteenth. But Allmendinger proved stronger, and was able to break free, track down the race leaders and apply more pressure on Campos.
But the race came down to riveting last lap action. Campos took the lead from Polar going into turn four, but Polar executed a textbook re-pass in Cunningham corner, then slowly built a two-car margin. Allmendinger continued to apply pressure, practically camping inside of Campos's gearbox. At this point, the three race leaders were consistently tripping fastest lap times in the 2:24.000 sec. range.
Despite being shut down in pass attempts, Campos still had something in the bag. Coming out of turn-17 and onto the front straight, Campos was neatly tucked under Polar heading to the checkered flag. The Brazilian then dove under the Peruvian in a pass attempt that fell short by just a half a car length as the flag fell on Polar.
After the race, Polar cited the intense competition of running with Campos and holding him off.
"Well it was definitely a fair fight and clean race," said the young South American. "Julio ran a great race. I think we worked well together and made clean passes without incidents. Also, A.J. ran a great race. He was able to close in on us when we were fighting for the lead. But coming into the final turn, I was able to execute a perfect exit onto the front straight. I just couldn't afford to make a mistake."
Campos sized up his result giving credit to the victor.
Said Campos, "Polar ran stronger today. Every time I passed he seemed able to re-pass but overall, I'm happy with my two podium finishes [for the weekend]."
Allmendinger was ecstatic with his first race podium and a race weekend that included two top-five finishes.
"I feel awesome. To finish on the podium in only my second car race is great. I'm happy with third place. It's just a great way to start the year. I learned so much and that's what's really important."
Several young drivers continued to improve form. Landon Yee, out of San Rafael, California, improved from fourteenth at the start to finish in ninth place. Returning driver Dan Di Leo recorded some key passes early on to set up a sixth place result.
The Formula Dodge National Championship resumes on May 11-12 for race action at Indianapolis Raceway Park.