Prior to the start of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Canadian Michael Valiante was marked as one of the favorites. When the season began with the 1999 Co-Rookie of the Year on the pole at Sebring, he confirmed his claim. From there however, the...
Prior to the start of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Canadian Michael Valiante was marked as one of the favorites. When the season began with the 1999 Co-Rookie of the Year on the pole at Sebring, he confirmed his claim. From there however, the 20-year old had little to shout about until round 11 at Road Atlanta. All the bad luck and misfortune was finally exorcised as Valiante won his first Barber Dodge Pro Series race in flag to flag fashion from the pole.
Meanwhile, the battle for the $300,000 Barber Dodge Career Enhancement Award will go to the final round in one week's time at the Miami-Homestead Speedway. Title contender Nilton Rossoni has leapt back ahead of Jon Fogarty in the point's tally with a third place finish behind Matt Plumb. Fogarty suffered an opening lap misfortune, eventually finishing mired in 15th place.
"It's a huge relief to finally get this first win out of the way," expressed Valiante who drives the No. 95 Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year Dodge Reynard. "I worked with Rocky (Moran) Sr. this week and we had the car well sorted out at the beginning of the week."
Valiante got the jump on the field right at the start and from beyond the first corner was never challenged though Plumb and Rossoni lingered a second or so behind for the duration of the race. It was the sort of composed drive that Valiante had expected to put on all season long, nary putting a wheel wrong for the entire 40-minute race. Wary of the bad luck plaguing him throughout the season, Valiante waited until he was firmly past the finish line before punching the air in triumph.
Behind Plumb held Rossoni as well as Jamie Menninga at bay for much of the race until two laps before the end when coming out of turn-7 the trio raced three wide the length of the long back straight. Entering turn-9, still three wide, it was Menninga who took the advantage relegating both Plumb and Rossoni behind only to have Plumb muscle his way back into second place as they crested the hill exiting turn-11 with Rossoni in tow. On the next tour, Rossoni again instigated a move, but Plumb had learned his lesson at Laguna Seca well and made his car very wide thwarting Rossoni's move.
"I didn't want to hurt Nilton's chances for the championship too much, but I wasn't going to let him by at any cost," said Plumb.
"I ran my car a bit wide coming out of the hairpin and hooked the curbing," said Plumb referring to the events that led to the three wide run down the backstretch that occurred a few laps later. "So I was getting a lot oversteer coming out of the corners after that, especially out of the hairpin. Nilton got a great run on me coming out of there as did Jamie. Coming down to turn-10 Nilton's on my right and all of a sudden Jamie fills the left lane. I knew that if Jamie kept it on the track, he wouldn't have enough speed to make it up the hill out of turn-11 so I just stayed patient and got a fast run down the hill."
Rossoni picks up the story from his point of view.
"I saw Matt had a bad run out of turn-7, and to tell you the truth I had no idea where Jamie was. Then I saw a white car come into the corner and thought, 'Oh my god', and after that Jamie was slow out of turn-11 and I was able to get by," added Rossoni.
Erstwhile championship leader Fogarty started the race from the fifth row and quickly got into trouble as he was forced into a brush with another driver in the opening corners that knocked his left front wing askew. He had battled to as high as sixth at one point, but could not overcome the aerodynamic disadvantage and slipped back through the field to his eventual 15th finishing position.
Dutchman Sepp Koster was again the fastest driver on the track, establishing a new fastest race lap record at 1:24.233 sec., which is good for an average of 108.556 mph. He would finish the race in seventh though he was as high as fifth at one point. American Mikel Miller was the Conseco Step Up Award winner as he gained the most places from his starting position. He moved up to from 16th to finish 13th.
The final round of the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series season will take place on Oct. 5-6 at the Racing For Kids Grand Prix featuring the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Homestead-Miami Speedway where the 2000 champion will be crowned. Round 11 from Road Atlanta will be televised Oct. 20 on ESPN 2 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
Points after Round 11
Nilton Rossoni 158; Jon Fogarty, 151; Sepp Koster, 123; Ryan Hunter-Reay, 101; Matt Plumb, 101; Michael Valiante, 87; Roger Yasukawa, 86; Jamie Menninga, 85; Thed Bjork 83; Andy Lally, 74; Alexandre Sperafico, 71; Andre Nicastro 69; Peter Boss, 54; Brent Sherman, 41; Marc Breuers 36
<pre> 2000 BARBER DODGE PRO SERIES RACE
ROAD ATLANTA MOTOR SPORTS CENTER Braselton, GA September 30, 2000
FN CR PS # DRIVER/ HOMETOWN PTS PURSE LP STATUS 1 95 Michael Valiante/Vancouver,Canada 21 $12,000 29 Running 2 17 Matt Plumb/Unionville, Penn. 16 $8,000 29 Running 3 36 Nilton Rossoni/Curitiba, Brazil 14 $6,000 29 Running 4 7 Jamie Menninga/Pella, Iowa 12 $4,000 29 Running 5 9 Roger Yasukawa/Santa Monica, Calif. 11 $2,500 29 Running 6 11 Thed Björk/Vretstorp, Sweden 10 $2,000 29 Running 7 5 Sepp Koster/The Netherlands 9 $1,800 29 Running 8 20 Alexandre Sperafico/Brazil 8 $1,700 29 Running 9 4 Brent Sherman/ North Barrington, Ill. 7 $1,600 29 Running 10 31 Ryan Hunter-Reay/Boca Raton, Fla. 6 $1,500 29 Running 11 19 Sara Senske/Kennewick, Washington 5 $1,400 29 Running 12 23 Marc Breuers/Gladwyne, Penn. 4 $1,300 29 Running 13 14 Mikel Miller/Rancho Cordova, Calif. 3 $1,700 29 Running 14 25 Kip Gulseth/Manitowoc, Wisc. 2 $1,100 29 Running 15 52 Jon Fogarty/Portolo Valley, Calif. 1 $1,000 29 Running 16 21 Jon Vannini/Hillsborough, California $500 29 Running 17 77 Scott Mayer/Franklin, Wisc. $500 29 Running 18 53 Tom Fogarty/Soledad, Calif. $500 25 Mechanical
- George Tamayo