SBRS: Round three California race report

Speed fends off Poirier for first FDNC victory. Scott Speed's early lead in Round 3 of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER proved too much to overcome. The CART Stars of Tomorrow Award Winner threatened to ...

Speed fends off Poirier for first FDNC victory.

Scott Speed's early lead in Round 3 of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER proved too much to overcome. The CART Stars of Tomorrow Award Winner threatened to turn today's race at California Speedway into a yawner, building a four-second margin at one point. Only Scott Poirier was up to the challenge. Speed would go on to take his first National Championship victory but he had to withstand a furious charge from the sixth-place starter, who steadily chipped away at Speed's margin over the second half of the race, eventually settling in for a satisfying second. Third place was awarded to Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Colin Fleming after a penalty ruling against Brazilian Jonatan Jorge for overly aggressive defense of position.

Speed checked out from pole early and led all 23 laps on the modified California Speedway infield. Poirier had to sidestep Fleming, Jorge and Luis Pelayo to get a crack at the point. Once clear, Regional Runoff Winner started tripping off one flyer after another, until he was literally tucked underneath Speed's gearbox. After light contact under braking, Poirier lost his nosecone. The impact did little to unnerve Speed, who kept the Floridian at bay over the final crucial laps, never opening the door to a pass attempt.

The battle for third and fourth was as compelling, only for longer. Luis Pelayo occupied third position over the early laps before giving way to Poirier, on the charge and just passing through. Jorge slotted in after Poirier upset him on lap 11, leaving the Brazilian and Fleming to fight it out over the balance of laps. At times it was ugly. Jorge defended his position with vigor, over enough laps that blocking concerns were raised. Frisselle, who had climbed back into the mix after tangling with Grant Maiman on the first lap, was in hot pursuit as well. A miscue by either Jorge or Fleming would play right into his hands. Positions 3-4-5 moved as one unit over the last half of the race. Jorge was black-flagged three times for what were perceived as questionable attempts to keep Fleming behind him. Immediately after the race, National Championship race personnel convened to discuss the possibility of a penalty, which eventually went against Jorge. The ruling demoted the Brazilian back two positions to fifth place, one position behind Frisselle, in fourth.

Luis Pelayo followed up a strong qualifying session with a sixth place finish, ahead of Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Craig Baltzer in seventh. Baltzer's top-10 finish was his best result of the early season. Steve Welk also drove a heads-up race and advanced from 17th to earn eight place honors. Jason Richardson and Al Unser rounded out the top-10. Grant Maiman, winner of Round 1 at Laguna Seca, retired early after his contact with Frisselle heading into turn-1.

Race winner Speed revealed a late race strategy that he believes helped to hold Poirier off.

" I had a really good start and started to pull away," said Speed. He went on," I settled in and thought it would go very well. And then I started to stretch out a lead. Once Poirier passed the other guys, he started to catch me pretty quickly. I realized it was only a matter of time until he was on me. With a few laps to go, I let up just a bit to try to cool down my tires as much as I could so I could apply them hard on the final two laps. Fortunately, it worked out well and I held him off. I suspect tomorrow's race will also come down to tire management."

Colin Fleming's first podium in the National Championship was not without drama.

" It was an exciting race," understated Fleming. He continued," Jonatan and I ran together the whole race. It was difficult to pass him. He was making it a little hard on me so I'm glad the decision went my way. Every racing situation is a learning experience for me. I knew I had to be patient and keep calm and stay out of trouble."

Although Poirier obviously wanted the win, his second place finish ranks among one of his best results.

"I got a bit hung up early coming out of turn-1 but I came out OK. I kept my head down, picked up a few positions and found myself behind Scott but quite a ways back. I was able to click off some nice, consistent laps and caught him up to have a nice race towards the end. Unfortunately I just couldn't get by."

Poirier acknowledges if there was anything left on the table, he didn't see it.

"I may have been able to put a move on him late but he wasn't leaving much. My goal coming here was to finish strong and collect championship points. Be consistent throughout the whole season. In that respect, I'm very happy with my second place result."

-barber-

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Scott Speed , Scott Poirier , Colin Fleming , Skip Barber , Steve Welk , Luis Pelayo , Grant Maiman , Jonatan Jorge , Jason Richards