Barrett wins Pacific F2000 at Buttonwillow
Patrick Barrett led flag-to-flag this afternoon at Buttonwillow Raceway Park to record his third Pacific F2000 Championship victory of the season, and he headed up a 1-2-3 podium sweep for the Fresno-based PR1 Motorsports squad. Barrett's second consecutive win extends his points lead to 26, and the 17-year-old driver, who pilots the No. 3 Russell Racing School/Alpinestars/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen, will look to make it three in a row in tomorrow's half of the double-header.
The race, Round Five of 12 scheduled in the 2007 season, was slowed right from the start, after a three-car pileup in the first turn forced series officials to call for a red flag. The accident eliminated Ira Fierberg, Bob Negron and Scott Rarick from competition, but all three drivers were uninjured.
When racing resumed, Barrett set sail, never being seriously challenged and receiving the checkered flag 2.58 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Tom Merrill's No. 81 Merrill Farms/Smith & Hook Wineries/Winner's Circle/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen. Completing the podium was Shaun Modisette, driving the No. 26 Carson Trailer/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen, who came home nearly two seconds further back. The race was shortened to 7 laps from its scheduled 15 due to the lengthy accident cleanup.
Barrett, who lives in Los Osos, Calif., credited the PR1 Motorsports team's "perfect" setup and engineering with giving him a car capable of holding off the competition.
"I knew it was important to maintain my gap over my PR1 teammate in second place, because we're in such equal equipment, anything could have happened if Tom had caught me," Barrett said. "I felt that if I got a good start, though, that same equal equipment would mean he wouldn't be able to reel me in, and that's what happened. This is certainly a victory to savor, but we've got another race to run tomorrow — if I can win that one too, then I'll really be able to celebrate."
For Merrill, a series rookie, the finish was a career-high, and his first-ever podium result. He said the single-file restart on Lap 2 seriously damaged his chances of catching or passing Barrett, but when he realized he couldn't chase down the leader, he was content to keep a firm grasp on second place while saving tires for tomorrow's racing. In an effort to reduce costs, Pacific F2000 Championship series rules mandate that drivers compete on one set of Hankooks per two-day weekend.
"It's a great feeling to be on the podium, and I hope I can move up one spot tomorrow," Merrill said. "I was a bit surprised as to how quickly the two of us were able to pull out a gap, and it's a real testament to the PR1 Motorsports crew. I couldn't get a run on Patrick in Turn 1 with that single-file restart, and from there I just didn't have time to really set anything else up or even really get the tires warm, because the race was so short."
Chris Spreitzer, who came into the weekend second in series points, brought his No. 7 Anglo-American Racing/BWM Engineering Van Diemen under the checkers in fourth, followed by the No. 29 Phoebe Hair/Sovereign Energy/Team G.FRO Van Diemen of Philip Metzger in fifth.
Rookie Mitchell Cunningham, who started third, was caught out by a gusting wind in the Sunset Turn, which was powerful enough to blow his No. 99 Windward Properties/Cunningham Construction/Sniper Systems/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen off course. Cunningham briefly dropped out of the top-10 thanks to the spin, but he worked his way back through the field to record a sixth-place finish at the flag.
Nicky Freytag finished seventh in the No. 9 BWM Engineering Van Diemen, with rookie Jeff Westphal's No. 39 MCGC/DG Flooring/Team G.FRO Van Diemen in eighth. Max Hyatt was ninth in the No. 25 Front Range Motorsports Van Diemen, and rookie Chuck Hulse led the Masters division contingent home with a 10th-place finish behind the wheel of the No. 19 Silicon Salvage/Team G.FRO Van Diemen.
Second-generation driver Ricky Taylor had a rough introduction to Pacific F2000 racing, as the son of sports car racing legend Wayne Taylor brought his No. 96 GS610 Maximum Performance Brake Fluid/SunTrust/Comar Performance Van Diemen to the pit lane on the first lap, having suffered a broken suspension, possibly in the first-turn meleé. The damage was enough to end his race early.
Negron, who drove the No. 17 fengshui5.com/Bob Negron Racing Van Diemen, had a spectacular, if unwanted, vantage point for the Lap 1 carnage — a sky-high view, in fact. His machine was launched up and over the top of Rarick's No. 34 Red Line Oil/Hertfelder Motorsports Piper — but it was the earth at the bottom, not the sky, which tore three suspension corners off Negron's machine, possibly damaging the frame and leaving him a doubtful starter for Sunday's event. Negron, however, climbed out intact, and brought his sense of humor with him.
"I remember thinking as I'm going up in the air, 'Hey, what a great view from up here'," Negron joked.
Qualifying for Round Six of the 2007 Pacific F2000 Championship will get underway at 8 a.m. on Sunday, with another 15-lap race scheduled to go green at 12:30 p.m.
The 2007 Pacific F2000 Championship is a 12-race, six-event championship series for Formula Ford 2000 cars, conducted on six different circuits in California and Nevada. In its fourth season, the tour has already produced several graduates to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and the Indy Pro Series.
The F2000 formula represents one of the first rungs on the professional open-wheel racing ladder in North America, and has provided the launching pad for the careers of many top racers, including Champ Car World Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy, and Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish, Jr.