Bamford Fends Off LaRue at VIR
Alton, VA - Steve Bamford spent the better part of 15 laps fending off John LaRue in what turned out to be an F2000 Championship Series showdown in round five of the season at VIRginia International Raceway on Saturday afternoon. Brandon Dixon finished third. Another race follows on Sunday afternoon.
From the green flag, LaRue, from the outside of the front row looked to get the jump on the start, but fell back to third in turn one. This allowed pole-sitter Bamford to reclaim the lead while LaRue had to pass Dixon for second place, which he did promptly with a move in turn three on the opening lap.
With the order re-established, the three drivers ran close in the opening stages of the race in a solid display of their respective race craft skill sets.
Bamford and then LaRue separated from Dixon, with LaRue slowly chipping into Bamford's one-second lead with each lap of VIR's challenging 17-turn configuration.
Behind those three, Dave Weitzenhof ran fourth with Bob Reid in fifth while Devin Lesueur and Connor Gawry battled for sixth.
Up front, Bamford could not shake LaRue as the battle between two of the best F2000 drivers in the country continued to play out for the race lead with a margin moving between four and five tenths of a second.
On lap nine, Dave Weitzenhof pulled off with a mechanical issue, promoting Reid's No. 12 to fourth place, while LaRue continued to stalk Bamford from four tenths back as race unfolded.
With three laps to go, both leaders had upped their pace on a scorching hot day in Virginia, with Bamford running his best lap of the race to extend the gap to eight tenths. LaRue answered back with a better lap - the fastest of the race - and lowered the gap again as the two took the white flag. Bamford would take the win with LaRue finishing second after a last lap suspension failure, some 18 seconds behind.
Bamford said: "I was paying attention to the mirrors, I could see John there. You never know with John, he's an excellent racer, you can't give him anything, you have to keep going." Bamford takes his second straight win and fourth of the 2016 F2000 season.
Dixon was third podium despite an ongoing oil pressure issue, while Reid put in another strong showing with a fourth place run.