Biggest Event of the Season: Watkins Glen Preview
New York, NY – The crown jewel event of the F2000 season gets underway this weekend at what is considered among many to be the nation’s most famous road course, Watkins Glen. The drivers and teams of the F2000 Championship Series are sharing the track over America’s birthday weekend with the Indy Cars.
Not only will the huge 35+ car F2000 field be trying to impress Indy Car teams and drivers, Watkins Glen attendance is expected to be in the tens of thousands, as estimates by Joyce Julius & Associates put weekend attendance in prior years between 35,000-50,000.
With the season at the halfway point, the championship race is starting to take shape. Matthew Inge, who is coming off his first career win at Mosport, leads the points by a slim seven points over fellow American Chris Miller, who is tied for second with Canadian Remy Audette. Miller has won at VIR and Mosport, this year, while Audette has a single win at Lime Rock, in addition to two new lap records. Those three have a considerable lead over the rest of the field in the standings.
“The goal for Watkins Glen is to pick up where St. Clair Motorsports left off, by winning,” commented Matthew Inge, who drives the #02 Van Diemen/Zetec, and passed Chris Miller with just over a lap to go at Mosport for the win. “Another goal I have is to put the car on pole which is something I have yet to do. The key is getting a clean lap in qualifying, especially with the huge field. Bonus points are going to be crucial in the championship chase.”
While Chris Miller sits seven points back in the chase, once the two drops are calculated, Miller actually leads the standings for JDC Motorsports, by 11 points over Inge. “Watkins Glen is my favorite track on the schedule,” said Miller. “Last year we finished on the podium, but this year the goals are obviously a bit higher with the championship as close as it is. We’ve been fast all year but Matt (Inge) seems to have the edge on us later in the races. I am confident we’ll be able to find that extra tenth or so in the race pace. No one is going to give an inch and with Matt and Remy (Audette) yet to finish outside the top five, we need to focus on getting the most points every time we’re on track”
Meanwhile, Benjamin Searcy sits back in fourth in the points race. The rookie American has won two races in dominating fashion in his Z-Sports #10, but hasn’t been able to finish as consistently as the three points leaders.
“The Glen is the race I have been waiting on all year,” Searcy said. “It is one of my favorite tracks and I won a Skip Barber race there last year. I am ready to get back on the podium and hopefully I will get to see another win if it all goes right.”
Fifth in the standings is Brazilian rookie Fabio Orsolon, driving the #26 for Alegra Motorsprots. Orsolon is coming off double podium finishes at Mosport and has been picking up speed. “We are trying to make up the difference in the points with more good results,” said Orsolon, who many expect to win a race before the end of the year.
Caitlin Johnston, driving the #20 Z-Sports car, hopes to rebound from a rough weekend at Mosport. “The goal is to go out and do my best, and consistently get better with each session,” commented Johnston, who is one of two Canadians in the field this weekend. “I would be very happy with a top ten weekend.”
Rookie team Group A Racing also showed increasing speed at Mosport before separate on-track incidents hampered their progress in the second race. Colin Alexander, who finished ninth in Saturday’s race, suffered opening-lap contact, while teammate Jonathan Scarallo tangled with Caitlin Johnston, causing a spin. Scarallo eventually rejoined the race a couple laps down and hopes to turn things around this weekend.
“Watkins Glen is going to be a great experience,” commented Scarallo, “Just racing at the Glen alone is great but the fact we are with Indy Car is just incredible. I am really looking forward to this weekend and hope this is where my team and I can turn the season around and start to have some things go our way.”
The phenomenal 37 car field that is expected includes many drivers and teams making their first appearances of the 2009 season. Frontrange Motorsports makes its 2009 series debut with Mark Felsen, Tyler Hunter and Dwight Rider. R-Sports, which made their 2009 debut a few weeks ago at Mosport with Keith McCrone, is expanding to three cars, adding Scott Gesford and Mike Mazziotti.
K-Fast racing makes its season debut as well, with Rob Nicholas in the #89 Van Diemen. Mark Defer joins the grid in the #8 while Len Amato returns with a freshly painted #33.
Christopher Burke, John Dole, Jeff McCusker, Chris Gumprecht, Al Guibord Jr., Brian Belardi , Paul Farmer and Phil Lombardi all return with their F2000 race cars after sitting Mosport out.
Lombardi, who was a favorite to run near the front at Lime Rock, lost an engine during Friday practice, sidelining him for the rest of the weekend. “It was very frustrating to not get a chance to show what we could do at Lime Rock,” said Lombardi, who drives for GTP Motorsports. “But, Watkins Glen is one of my top five tracks and I have lots of laps there. I’m looking forward to having a weekend without all the drama and bad luck. The big field should showcase the series nicely in front of the Indy Car audience, so the more the merrier. As far as the races go, I want to be a factor and show what I know we are capable of.”
Tom Fatur leads the Masters Class standings by a 43 point margin over second place Craig Clawson. Fatur is coming off a Masters Class victory in the second race at Mosport and hopes to continue his momentum to Watkins Glen. “This will be the largest field of the season and the Masters Class will be very competitive. The main goal for the weekend is to avoid mistakes and focus on two strong finishes,” Fatur said. “Qualifying is going to be important as we will have close to 40 cars on track. A black flag can chew up a lot of time, so it will be important to get a good lap early in the qualifying sessions.”
The weekend gets going on Thursday with practice sessions, follow live updates on F2000ChampoinshipSeries.com.