USSS: Firebird round 8 preview

United States Speedway Series  Petrie Has Clinched First USSS Championship But Team and Rookie Races Still Tight Heading Into "Thanks to America" Indy Car Grand Prix - Thanksgiving Weekend at Firebird International Raceway  (November 6, 2001...

United States Speedway Series 

Petrie Has Clinched First USSS Championship But Team and Rookie Races Still Tight Heading Into "Thanks to America" Indy Car Grand Prix - Thanksgiving Weekend at Firebird International Raceway

 (November 6, 2001 -- Chandler, Arizona) -- With five victories to date and an insurmountable 31-point lead, Ken Petrie has already clinched the inaugural United States Speedway Series Championship for Indy Cars and Champ Cars; but the Team and Rookie titles are yet to be decided at the final race of the season: the USSS "Thanks to America" Indy Car Grand Prix, November 25 at Firebird International Raceway. 

"It's an honor to win the USSS championship. This has been a dream season for us and I couldn't have done it without Arlon Koops, my crew chief. We've been lucky enough to win five races in four different cars and that was one of our goals - to win in each of our cars. It's probably something I'll never be able to repeat but we'll sure be trying again next year. And the season isn't over yet. Greg Gorden had us covered at the last race in Colorado and Phil Erickson is always tough; but I'm looking forward to another good battle at Phoenix," said Petrie. 

Petrie (Parker, Colorado) has dominated much of the first season of the USSS championship, putting his car on the pole for six of the seven races to date, leading at least one lap in every race, leading the most laps in six races, and ultimately capturing five victories on both ovals and road courses, including the first USSS race at Firebird in September. The Parker, Colorado driver has earned 156 of 161 available points, in his fleet of Precision Industries March-Chevrolets: #2, #77, #95 (Black), and #95 (Red). The championship is Petrie's third Indy Car title, as he also won championships in the American IndyCar Series in 1996 and 1997.

With 17 points over Eric Koselke (Indianapolis, Indiana), Phil Erickson (Phoenix, Arizona) is firmly in second place in the USSS standings. Erickson was the first to break Petrie's win streak, out shooting him at the Dodge City Indy Car Showdown in July at Dodge City, Kansas. After finishing second to Petrie at the first Firebird Grand Prix, Erickson would like to put another notch on his gun on his home track, in his #7 Erickson Companies Lola-Buick.

Greg Gorden (Colorado Springs, Colorado) was victorious at the Spirit of America Indy Car Grand Prix in Colorado, in the #37 Pikes Peak International Raceway G-Force-Aurora; and he is currently fourth in the standings, just 15 points back of Koselke. He is eager to challenge the champ and move up in rank.  

The battle for the USSS Team Championship is between the Loophole Racing team of David and Bud Hoffpauir (Black Forest, Colorado) and the McDonald Motorsports team of John McDonald (Winchester, California). Loophole has fielded as many as four Lola-Buicks at USSS races this season for a number of different driver and/or car owners, including Mike Koss (Bronson, Michigan), Mark Swigart (Ridgecrest, California), Don Warren (Aberdeen, Washington), Clint Vahsholtz (Woodland Park, Colorado), and Bobby Regester (Divide, Colorado); as well as March-Buicks for Robert Garcia (Houston, Texas), Harold Erickson (Evergreen, Colorado), and David himself. They are expected to have at least three cars entered at Firebird, including Swigart, Koss, and Todd Brayton (Coldwater, Michigan), making his Indy Car debut.  

Needing to earn 19 points more than Loophole to take the title, McDonald Motorsports is looking for strong finishes from its drivers: Koselke (currently third in USSS standings) in the #17 Lennon & Associates Lola-Chevrolet, McDonald in the #15 Slover's Porting Services March-Chevrolet, and new team member, Jim Webb (Van Nuys, California), who recently purchased the #2 March-Chevrolet from Petrie to compete in his first USSS event this season.

Mike Koss currently leads the USSS Rookie race, after earning points with a third-place finish at Dodge City in his #9 Koss Klassic Boats Lola-Buick. An experienced oval track racer, Koss will be competing in his first Indy Car road race. His top rookie contender, Russell Reeves (Suwanee, Georgia) is very familiar with road racing, as an SCCA instructor at Road Atlanta and he brought his #19 Precision Shooting Equipment Lola-Buick home in third the last time USSS faced off at Firebird.

Several Colorado drivers will also be among those vying for their first USSS victory, including Mike Lee, (Florissant, Colorado), who made a strong charge to finish fourth at Colorado in the #40 Hilton Valdoro Resort / Formby Ford Autoplaza Lola-Buick; Dale Buckley (Commerce City) in the #48 Buckley & Company Lola-Chevrolet, who finished third at the first Sandia Indy Car Shootout; Ted Hummell (Castle Rock) in the #87 Jaguar Denver March-Chevrolet; Rob Van Westenberg (Morrison) in the #77 Humbug Racing March-Chevrolet.

Gates open for the USSS "Thanks to America" Indy Car Grand Prix" at 7:00 am daily, with practice and qualifying scheduled for Saturday, November 24 and the 25-lap race at 1:00 pm on Sunday, November 25. It is eighth and final race of the USSS 2001 championship and is being held in conjunction with the National Auto Sport Association.

The USSS Season Championship Race will be a feature event along with the NASA 100 Enduro Race, the Season Championship of NASA American Stock Cars, and the introduction of the NASA Factory Five Racing Series and the Shelby Cobra Racing Series. The NASA race program will also include Big Bore Production Based & GT Cars, Small Bore Production Based & GT Cars, Open Wheel Formula and Sports Racing Cars on the Firebird Main Track. The NASA Street car orientation program and High Performance Driving Event for Street Cars will be run on the Firebird West Track during the three-day weekend.  

Admission is free to the public, with a donation to the Arizona Kidney Foundation and Organ Transplant Network. Donations will also be collected by USSS drivers for the United Way September 11th Fund.

The 2001 USSS Indy Car Championship Awards ceremony will take place Sunday evening, following the "Thanks to America" Indy Car Grand Prix.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Mike Koss , Clint Vahsholtz , Eric Koselke