Podlesni and Westphal Share Pacific F2000 Honors The battle between talented young Californians Jeff Westphal and Robert Podlesni for the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires intensified during the third double-header race weekend of the season at Buttonwillow Raceway Park.
Podlesni, 20, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., maintained his perfect sequence of pole positions at the challenging 2.89-mile road course by securing the fastest time in qualifying on each day. But he had to share the race wins when Westphal, 21, from San Carlos, Calif, countered Podlesni’s Saturday victory by taking the lead at the first corner the following afternoon and holding a narrow advantage until the checkered flag.
With each driver claiming an additional two points for fastest race lap during the weekend (Westphal on Saturday and "Poodles" on Sunday), Westphal saw his five-point advantage in the championship eroded to just a solitary marker as the season reached its halfway stage.
"This is Robert’s track," declared Westphal on Sunday afternoon, alluding to his rival’s previous record of six poles and five race wins at Buttonwillow. "On the out-lap [before the start] I thought to myself, ‘This race is going to be won at the start,’ and I think I got the perfect start."
Indeed he did. Podlesni, who led from flag to flag on Saturday in Dave Freitas Racing’s #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars Van Diemen, was obliged to slot in behind Westphal’s #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen at the first corner and was never able to breach Westphal’s defenses.
"It was still a great weekend," concluded Podlesni. "I got two poles, one win and one fastest lap, so I’m not disappointed at all. It was a hard race and he just ended up taking it today. That’s the way it goes."
The top two championship contenders eclipsed everyone else, although there were plenty of entertaining and hard-fought battles taking place in their wake.
On Saturday, PR1 Motorsports teammates Max Hyatt, from Santa Fe, N.M., Shaun Modisette, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and Nick Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., enjoyed a race-long battle that was decided in that order with the trio separated by less than a second at the finish.
Behind them, Bob Negron, from San Jose, Calif., made a successful return to the series by fending off Madera, Calif.’s Peter Hastrup to snare the Masters class honors (for drivers over 51). Negron was helped in his task when a close-following Jeremy Shaw, from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., made a mistake under braking for the Star Mazda turn and inadvertently took out both himself and fellow Masters contender Chuck Hulse, from Yorba Linda, Calif.
Ira Fierberg, from Manhattan Beach, Calif., took the Expert category (for drivers 35 to 51) in his Sparco/DFR Van Diemen, finishing ninth overall after a protracted battle with youngster Nick Kodenko, from Santa Paula, Calif.
Sunday’s race was equally exciting. Modisette and fellow second-row starter Freytag were embroiled in another tight contest for third which finally went Modisette’s way.
"We were pretty far off the front two yesterday," noted Modisette. "It was pretty embarrassing. But we got it together and closed the gap today. We were only a few tenths of a second behind them in lap times. Nick and I had a couple of great races. It was fun."
Hyatt’s hopes of joining the battle were thwarted by a broken gear linkage on the first lap. He eventually finished a couple of laps in arrears after a lengthy pit stop.
Shaw made a strong start to run fifth in the early stages with his #65 GS610 Maximum Performance Brake Fluid/Comar Performance Van Diemen but never could shake off the attentions of Hulse as the pair fought mightily for Masters honors. After several exchanges of position, Hulse secured the position and was relieved to be able to cruise to the flag after Shaw spun while challenging at the final corner just over one lap from the finish.
"That was a great battle. I worked my butt off," said Hulse after winning the Masters class for the fourth time this year in the #21 Silicon Salvage/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen.
Fierberg again won the Expert class, finishing a strong seventh overall behind the recovered Shaw.
RESULTS – Rounds 5 & 6 (of 12), Buttonwillow Raceway Park, May 3/4, 2008:
1. Robert Podlesni (Van Diemen DP08), 1m43.149s; 2. Jeff Westphal (Van Diemen RF05), 1m43.613s; 3. Max Hyatt (Van Diemen RF05), 1m45.310s; 4. Shaun Modisette (Van Diemen RF05), 1m45.334s; 5. Nick Freytag (Van Diemen RF06), 1m45.342s; 6. Bob Negron (Van Diemen RF99), 1m45.743s; 7. Chuck Hulse (Van Diemen RF03), 1m45.781s; 8. Jeremy Shaw (Van Diemen RF02), 1m45.926s; 9. Peter Hastrup (Van Diemen RF02), 1m46.264s; 10. Scott Rarick (Piper DF5), 1m46.422s; 11. Ira Fierberg (Van Diemen RF05), 1m46.423s; 12. Les Phillips (Mygale SJ04), 1m47.114s; 13. Nick Kodenko (Van Diemen RF05), 1m47.226s; 14. Michael Murphy (Mygale SJ04), 1m49.355s; 15. Bill Kincaid (Van Diemen RF03), 1m50.121s; 16. Richard Lai Fatt (Mygale SJ04), 1m50.666s; 17. Chris Hundley (Van Diemen RF03), no time.
(All use Zetec/Quicksilver engines.)
Round 5 (15 laps): 1. Podlesni, 26m17.440s; 2. Westphal, 26m17.726s; 3. Hyatt, 26m42.323s; 4. Modisette, 26m42.845s; 5. Freytag, 26m43.102s; 6. Negron, 27m13.641s; 7. Hastrup, 27m16.013s; 8. Rarick, 27m17.014s; 9. Fierberg, 27m22.741s; 10. Kodenko, 27m23.911s; 11. Hundley, 27m30.520s; 12. Murphy, 14 laps; 13. Lai Fatt, 14 laps; 14. Phillips, 8 laps, not running/fuel; 15. Kincaid, 8 laps, not running/spin; 16. Shaw, 5 laps, not running/accident; 17. Hulse, 5 laps, not running/accident.
Margin of victory: 0.286s.
Winner’s average speed: 98.932 mph.
Fastest race lap: Westphal, 1m44.531, 99.530 mph (record)
Experts class winner (35-50): Fierberg.
Masters class winner (over 50): Negron.
Nordskog Instruments Hard Charger Award: Hundley (17th to 11th).
1. Podlesni, 1m44.345s; 2. Westphal, 1m44.385s; 3. Freytag , 1m45.062s; 4. Modisette, 1m45.107s; 5. Hyatt, 1m45.995s; 6. Hulse, 1m46.215s; 7. Shaw, 1m46.317s; 8. Rarick, 1m46.653s; 9. Fierberg, 1m47.111s; 10. Hastrup, 1m47.270s; 11. Negron, 1m47.412s; 12. Phillips, 1m47.763s; 13. Kodenko, 1m47.809s; 14. Hundley, 1m47.931s; 15. Lai Fatt, 1m51.555s; 16. Murphy, 1m51.833s.
Round 6 (14 laps): 1. Westphal, 24m44.879s; 2. Podlesni, 24m45.191s; 3. Modisette, 24m54.624s; 4. Freytag, 24m54.947s; 5. Hulse, 25m13.241s; 6. Shaw, 25m22.715s; 7. Fierberg, 25m27.219s; 8. Rarick, 25m27.525s; 9. Hastrup, 25m29.235s; 10. Negron, 25m29.869s; 11. Kodenko, 25m42.427s; 12. Phillips, 25m44.708s; 13. Hundley, 26m03.815s; 14. Murphy, 26m11.164s; 15. Lai Fatt, 26m22.487s; 12. Hyatt, 12 laps.
Margin of victory: 0.312s.
Winner’s average speed: 98.093 mph.
Fastest race lap: Podlesni, 1m45.458s, 98.655 mph.
Experts class winner: Fierberg.
Masters class winner: Hulse.
Nordskog Instruments Hard Charger Award: Fierberg (9th to 7th).
Provisional point standings (after 6 of 12 rounds): 1. Westphal, 163; 2. Podlesni, 162; 3. Modisette, 118; 4. Freytag, 113; 5. Hyatt, 102; 6. Rarick, 89; 7. Hastrup, 80; 8. Hulse, 75; 9. Kodenko, 70; 10. Fierberg, 67; 11. Peter Hansel, 57; 12. James Hakewill, 33; etc.
Next races: Rounds 7 & 8 at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif., July 5/6.