Races on both coasts featured Skip Barber trained racers registering three victories in major motorsport events, most notably in CART FedEx, Dayton Indy Lights and Indy Northern Lights Racing Series action. In the Toyota Grand Prix of Long...
Races on both coasts featured Skip Barber trained racers registering three victories in major motorsport events, most notably in CART FedEx, Dayton Indy Lights and Indy Northern Lights Racing Series action.
In the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Helio Castroneves turned in a flawless drive to claim a comfortable victory in what is typically a tight battle. The Brazilian made full use of his fifth Champ Car pole to take the lead into the first corner, and while pressured during the 82-lap contest, firstly from 1993 Barber Pro Series Champion Kenny Brack and later from the winner of the inaugural race at Monterrey, Castroneves was never headed en route to his fourth career victory.
"I'm sure it was a pretty boring race for you guys," said Castroneves, tongue firmly in cheek, "but for me it was perfect. Most of the race was pretty intense. I couldn't sleep at all. Sometimes it's good when you have someone behind you because you always focus, you always concentrate. All the race I was pretty much in control, but I couldn't relax at all."
Fellow Barber trained racers joining Castroneves in the Top-10 were Tony Kanaan [seventh] and Bryan Herta [tenth].
Two other CART sanctioned races ran on the streets of Long Beach.
In the Dayton Indy Lights race, Townsend Bell did what the drivers in the faster CART FedEx series were unable to do on the streets of Long Beach, make a pass for the lead. In doing so he was able to claim victory in the second race of the 2001 season. Bell chased last year’s Skip Barber trained Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year Daniel Wheldon for most of the race, and got close enough to take advantage of a slight mistake to make the pass with four laps to go and claim the win.
Bell stalked Wheldon for nearly 10 laps before getting close enough to catch the draft and make a run. He feinted right and when Wheldon went to block, he exposed the inside corner and Bell took the point. He posted nine of the race's 10 fastest laps and rolled away once he made the pass of the race leader to take his third career Lights win.
"Dan and I weren't necessarily that close during the race. Getting out of the hairpin that last time was about as close as I had been able," Bell said. "I pulled to within three or four car lengths then decided to go for it. After I made the pass it seemed easier to pull away. I don't know if Dan had a problem with his car but once I got past him it was smooth sailing to the checkered flag."
Bell's Dorricott teammate and last year's Barber Dodge Pro Series runner-up Jon got tripped up in an early accident that cut his day short.
Skip Barber trained racers featured in over half of the Top-10 spots in the inaugural Atlantic race of the season. The finishing summary included Joey Hand [third], 1999 Barber Dodge Pro Series Co-Rookie of the Year Michael Valiante [fourth], Martin Basso [sixth], Jonathan Macri [eighth], Guy Cosmo [ninth] and former Pro Series racer Rocky Moran Jr. [tenth].
In the Indy Northern Lights Racing League, Skip Barber trained Sam Hornish Jr. was not only the victor, but the class of the field all day long at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. But he made it interesting for himself with his final pit stop.
The No. 4 Pennzoil Panther car stalled and would not fire until Hornish had dropped from first, where he had been for most of the day, to fourth. But the young Ohioan stayed on the throttle and plowed through the field, eventually passing the defending champion and others to claim the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami.
Hornish's win made him two-for-two in his new duties with the yellow Panther car, making him the first driver since Skip Barber alumnus Greg Ray in 1999 to win back-to-back Indy Racing Northern Light Series events.
"We did make a rookie mistake, even though I am not a rookie," said Hornish about the late pit trouble. "I'm real happy to win two races in a row. Salazar was a great racer. He and I were really battling it out. You have to be as calm as possible in these races."
Fellow Skip Barber trained racers also finishing in the Top-10 were polesitter Jeff Ward [fifth] and Scott Sharp [eighth].
In NASCAR Winston Cup action, four Skip Barber trained drivers recorded Top-10 results in the Virginia 500. Jeff Burton [third], last year's champion Bobby Labonte [eighth], Jimmy Spencer [ninth] and Jerry Nadeau [tenth] were best of the Barbers on the half-mile oval of Martinsville. Pole winner Jeff Gordon surrendered the lead early lead and had an uncharacteristic off-day to finish in twelfth. In Craftsman Trucks, Skip Barber trained Randy Tolsma scored a fifth place result in the Advance Auto Parts 250....In Trans-Am competition, Skip Barber trained Brian Simo had a fifth place result at the Johnson Controls 100, one of the support races for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
- Andrew Torres