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Westphal Hopes "Home Track Advantage" Will Help
Jeff Westphal en route to victory at Buttonwillow in May
Jerry Andersen
The 2008 Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires is finely poised at the halfway stage, but San Carlos, Calif., resident Jeff Westphal hopes to extend his meager one-point advantage over 2006 champion Robert Podlesni as the series heads to his home track, Infineon Raceway, this weekend for a pair of 30-minute races.

"I have had a fair bit of time around this place," says Westphal, 21, who has won several Formula Russell races at the challenging 2.52-mile road course and serves as an instructor both at the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and the affiliated Audi Driving Experience. "If anything it’s making me work that much harder due to my personal expectations, but I have no doubt that Robert will be very competitive here, so it seems like it is going to require some perfect laps.

"The way the track is, you almost have no time to breathe," Westphal continues. "The only real break is after the Carousel up to Turn Seven, which takes maybe six seconds or so; it’s a challenge that I look forward to immensely. It will be a real test of endurance and consistency for the cars and the drivers."

Westphal already has four wins to his credit this season aboard the #39 Cacci Construction/TNT Demolition Van Diemen, entered by defending champion team PR1 Motorsports, but will surely be pushed to his limits by Podlesni’s #84 Terminal Velocity/Alpinestars/Dave Freitas Van Diemen.

"I’ve raced here twice before which helps me know the track, but I must really work to keep up with the local racers," says Podlesni, 20, from Thousand Oaks, Calif. "It’s a very technical track where consistency is a huge part of staying out front. I know Jeff is an instructor [at Infineon] so equaling his pace will be no easy task."

The Pacific F2000 Championship has proved to be a launching pad for the careers of several talented youngsters in recent years, and this year’s field also features plenty of depth.

Shaun Modisette, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., and Max Hyatt, from Santa Fe, N.M., both 21, along with their 17-year-old PR1 Motorsports teammate Nicky Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., have all earned podium finishes this year and are now anxious to break into the winner’s circle.

To do so they will have to vanquish some very quick series veterans, including former SCCA Formula Ford National Champion Scott Rarick, who will take on the horde of Van Diemens in his steadily developing #34 Piper/Fast Forward/Red Line Oil Piper DF5.

"Infineon is the ultimate proving ground for car and driver," says Rarick. "A car must work as well as possible in all areas – braking, acceleration, transition, grip, etc., and a driver must utilize all the shots in his bag. One cannot carry the other. It is a privilege to drive this track as it allows a driver to exercise his full repertoire."

Chuck Hulse, too, has clocked many thousands of miles at Infineon Raceway during years of campaigning in the Formula Russell series. Hulse, whose father, Chuck Sr., raced at Indianapolis in the 1960s, started his own career in the 1970s driving sprint and midget cars. He took a lengthy sabbatical to focus on his business interest but has made a concerted comeback in recent years and is now embroiled in a close battle for Masters Series honors (for drivers over 50 years of age) with Madera, Calif.’s Peter Hastrup.

"Racing at Infineon is going back to where road racing started for me," says Hulse, from Yorba Linda, Calif., who took his #25 Silicon Salvage/DFR Van Diemen to a strong fifth-place finish in the most recent event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. "It is one of the most challenging tracks in our series and where many great road racers have been groomed over the years. Track time there is very important and will be a key to a great finish. Put on your boxing gloves boys, the old man is coming home!"

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