SBRS: Sebring Stewart wins Formula Dodge National Championship Opener

Tophie Stewart led the Formula Dodge National Championship race only once today and that was good enough to take the season opening win over a determined Grant Maiman and Julio Campos. Stewart used a last lap run out of turn-17 to set up Maiman...

Tophie Stewart led the Formula Dodge National Championship race only once today and that was good enough to take the season opening win over a determined Grant Maiman and Julio Campos. Stewart used a last lap run out of turn-17 to set up Maiman for an inside pass in turn-1 en route to a season opening victory at Sebring International Raceway. The majority of racing on the 3.61 road course featured an epic battle between Maiman and Campos, both sharing the lead for 10 of the 11-lap race.

“Going into turn-1 at the start, everybody went wide and I found myself in P2. I couldn’t believe I was up there,” said a surprised Maiman. “I figured I would drop back shortly.”

He never did. The freshman maintained second position for the first two laps before an aggressive pass of Campos for the lead. Meanwhile, Stewart settled into third, often scrapping with Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger. Landon Yee was also in the mix, pressing hard to uproot Allmendinger. Remarkably, this is Allmendinger’s first car race having come to the series as a championship-winning karter.

Stewart, out of California, was determined to stay near front and seemed extremely poised, waiting for the right opportunity to challenge.

“I knew I wasn’t the fastest throughout the race. I just tried to hold on to their tails and not let anyone get away. I was also checking my mirrors a lot to make sure the guys behind me didn’t get into the race. I tried to drive a smart race and keep equal distance between cars.”

Nearing the end of the race, Stewart prepared to make his move. With only Maiman between him and a season opening victory, Stewart focused on setting him up.

“Coming down the second to last lap, I think I could’ve passed him [Maiman] going into turn-1, but I wanted to hold on till the last lap because I knew I was faster between some of the intervals.”

Stewart’s exit speed in turn-17 was phenomenal.

“I knew I had a lot of momentum going. The draft was really sucking me up real quick. I went to the inside and I think I surprised him. I was able to get a good lead out of it. Luckily, he was dicing w/ Campos real hard and I was able to pull away. From there I just tried to avoid mistakes the rest of the lap. I knew if I just drove a good lap, I could probably hold them off. “

Maiman was pleased with his podium finish and sees the result as a momentum generator heading into tomorrow’s Round 2 action.

“It’s a huge confidence builder,” said the Wisconsin racer. “I had no idea I’d be running up front. I would have been happy with a top-10 result. My game plan going in was to have fun and not make any mistakes.”

Similarly, Stewart hopes his win is a harbinger of the 13 round season.

“It’s a great way to start the season,” said the winner. “We’ll see how it goes. I hope I can continue. I’m starting from 13th so I’m looking to stay out of trouble and come to the front quick.”

Other notable drives this afternoon were recorded by Kevin Christensen, who advanced from 21st at the start to finish in 13th and Brian Rivera, who advanced from 22nd to finish 14th. Polesitter Juan Manuel Polar seemed snake bit for most of the race, suffering multiple car contacts but still managing to record a top-10 result. The Peruvian hot shoe hopes to rebound tomorrow when he will start from the second position in Round 2 action.

<pre> FINAL RESULTS FORMULA DODGE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 1 SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY APRIL 28, 2001 ALL DRIVERS IN FORMULA DODGE R/T 2000 ON MICHELIN TIRES

FINISH/CAR#/DRIVER/RESIDES/LAPS/POINTS 1/85/Tophie Stewart/Carmichael, California/11/20 2/97/Grant Maiman/New London, Wisconsin/11/16 3/17/Julio Campos/Santa Felicidade, Parana, Brazil/11/14 4/89/A.J. Allmendinger/Hollister, California/11/12 5/16/Landon Yee/San Rafael, California/11/11 6/81/Dan Di Leo/Markham, Ontario, Canada/11/10 7/53/Leonardo Maia/Oakland, California/11/9 8/56/Scott Presti/Naples, Florida/11/8 9/9/Craig Duerson/St. Petersburg, Florida/11/7 10/38/Juan Manuel Polar/Sannisidro, Lima, Peru/11/7 11/14/Chip Bryant/New Braunfels, Texas/11/5 12/23/Jonathan Bomarito/Salinas, California/11/4 13/42/Kevin Christensen/Castaic, California/11/3 14/30/Brian Rivera/Miami, Florida/11/2 15/65/Dan Kraus/Warwick, New York/11/1 16/83/James Gue/Roswell, Georgia/11/0 17/12/Burt Frisselle/Kihei, Hawaii/11/0 18/50/Robbie Montinola/Laguna Beach, California/11/0 19/37/Jason King/New Hope, Minnesota/11/0 20/20/Michael Curtiss/Alexandria, Virginia/11/0 21/2/Curt Andrews/Plymouth, Wisconsin/11/0 22/26/Tommy Contino/Hesperia, California/10/0 23/35/Matt Franc/8/0 24/46/Ben Moore/Naples, Florida/5/0 25/5/Gary Longo/Evanston, Illinois/5/0 26/7/Damian Della-Santina/Los Angeles, California/5/0

- Andrew Torres

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers James Gue , Julio Campos , Leonardo Maia , A.J. Allmendinger , Burt Frisselle , Craig Duerson , Grant Maiman , Jonathan Bomarito , Chip Bryan , Juan Manuel Polar , Robbie Montinola , Michael Curtis