Speed takes championship lead at Putnam Park Scott Speed wrestled the championship lead away from Burt Frisselle in Round 5 of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER, earning his second series victory and enduring...
Speed takes championship lead at Putnam Park
Scott Speed wrestled the championship lead away from Burt Frisselle in Round 5 of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER, earning his second series victory and enduring a heated, and at times, frightening race. The race saw four yellow flags and one red flag due to a severe impact collision between Al Unser and Brazilian Jonatan Jorge in turn-6. Both drivers walked away from their cars and were taken to a local hospital for observation. Frisselle's charge to pad his championship tally also ended prematurely when he found the wall outside of turn-10, one of several miscues suffered by the usually steady corps of National Championship drivers.
Speed, the first multiple winner of the season, collected a maximum 21 points for having secured pole earlier in the day. Although the CART Stars of Tomorrow Award winner led all 21 laps, the victory was anything but easy. As the green flag dropped, Speed checked out from the prime grid spot and quickly built an advantage over Robbie Montinola and the field. On lap 6, Jorge jumped Montinola with an aggressive move on the outside of turn-8 to take second position and make a charge for the front. But soonafter, yellow flags flew, the result of Frisselle's mishap. The field bunched together while decorum was restored, allowing Jorge to make up ground he could not under green conditions. The race was restarted with 11 laps to go.
While Speed held off Jorge, Maiman continued to pick off positions and advance from eighth. The winner of Round 1 at Laguna Seca sidestepped Montinola and started to gain ground on the Brazilian rookie. On lap 13, following a strong exit out of turn-10, Maiman drafted Jorge perfectly to set up the imminent pass in turn-1.
True to the nature of the series, few drivers wanted to give up much ground. Several paid a price as a number of cars spun, came together or went off track. Jason Richardson and Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Charlie Kimball found each other in turn-9, taking each other off course. Both were able to continue. The most serious incident, by far, involved Unser and Jorge, who were battling for third when the pair touched, launching Unser's R/T 2000 in the air, spiraling and tossing before coming to a rest. EMTs and Skip Barber Driver Coach personnel were on the scene immediately and were relieved to see both drivers emerge from their damaged cars unscathed. The strength and durability of the R/T 2000 chasis had done its job perfectly, allowing both drivers to walk away. The red flag fell and all cars were collected along the front straight. The race restarted shortly with only two laps to go; a virtual sprint.
Among the notable racers were Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winners Craig Baltzer and Ward Imrie, who finished fourth and fifth respectively. Baltzer's result is his best series finish to date. New Yorker Roland Isra earned sixth place honors ahead of Californian Justin Blower, who charged from 13th to finish in seventh. National Championship rookie Jared Wilcox drove a heady race and avoided unforgiving contact to advance 11 spots and finish in eighth. Jason Richardson and Aerelio Lopez rounded out the top-10.
Cue up the sprint finish. Maiman continued with unchecked pressure and Poirier positioned himself to take advantage of any contact or miscue -- the onus was on Speed to hold off all challengers. Knowing a mistake would be costly for Speed, Maiman was doing everything he could to upset Speed's rhythm. However, laps ran out for those in pursuit and not soon enough for Speed, who returned to the pits as the series points leader.
"It was a very interesting race," understated Speed." After the first lap, I checked out hard and built a 10-car lead and started to pull away. I noticed Maiman had passed Jorge and was starting to catch me a bit and I was disappointed when I saw the yellow come out. But the restarts afforded my tires a chance to cool down and I was able to hold Grant off in turn-1. Things were looking better. Then we had the black flag. I got a good restart and led solidly into turn-1, but now he was all over me. Coming onto the front straight near the last lap, I made a mistake and dropped a wheel. Grant got a good run on me heading to one. I went down the inside and we were side-by-side, neither one of us braked until the apex. It was exciting racing that turned out good for me."
The new series points leader has a big picture approach to the balance of the weekend and season.
"I'm looking to keep the points lead as long as I can and thinking about this as a championship and not race by race. It's all about points."
Said the second place finisher Maiman."I do well in traffic and that's what I was doing most of the race, trying to get around as many cars as possible and pressuring everyone in front of me. Fortunately, my set up was geared towards a lot of yellow flags -- it helped preserve my tires. I'm not sure I would have had the same result otherwise. I'm definitely pleased with second. I could've forced the issue on Scott, but it's still early in the championship and there's a lot of talent out there. I'm trying to be in a strong position for the second half of the season."
Meanwhile Poirier quietly collects another podium to maintain his season-long momentum.
"I'm pleased with another podium. This particular race was all about keeping the R/T 2000 on the track, there were lots of guys going off track and several were getting together. I was able to keep it smooth and remain focused, despite all the yellows and the incidents on track. Third place is a good chunk of points and I'm very happy to be back on the podium."
The National Championship Runoff winner went on.
"Consistency was my goal coming here. I need to stay consistent, collect top-3s and top-5s. I needed to garner all the points possible. I think that's what's going to be required to contest for this championship."