Mahopac, NY - Tim Paul made it another top-five finish on Saturday at Mid-Ohio, briefly challenging for the race lead, before becoming the center of attention on Sunday following a collision with Championship points leader Robert La Rocca while fighting, side-by-side, for second around the road course.
F2000 Championship Series officials deemed it a racing incident, as Paul, a Franklin Pierce University student, comes out of rounds nine and ten of the 14-race 2012 season sixth in points, however, positions second through sixth are covered by less than 90 points, with up to 110 available for the two races at Summit Point, West Virginia, August 24 - 26.
After poking his nose under another car for the lead in race one at Mid-Ohio, the handling on Paul's Van Diemen from the Stupid Monkey Racing/GTP Motorsports team went away, leaving the CellMark Paper driver coming home in fifth position.
"Race one was very fun, an opening lap wreck right in front of me I managed to avoid put us into third,” said Paul. ”On the restart I was able to get second away from Jon LaRue going down into turn seven, he gave me room and we raced well. I ran down La Rocca, and had a little bit left, but not for long enough. Unfortunately hanging with him and running as hard as I was, I cooked the rear tires and the car basically turned into a D1 drift machine. I ended up slowly slipping back and finishing fifth."
But, it was another strong finish for the third-year CellMark Paper-sponsored F2000 driver, who capitalized on the bad luck on drivers in front of him in the Championship picture to gain back valuable ground.
Paul finished 17th and 15th at Mid-Ohio in 2011, clearly showing the leap forward he has made this year. Undoubtedly helping at Mid-Ohio was driver coach, ex-F1 and Indy Lights driver Tommy Byrne.
However, come Sunday, Paul had his sights set on the bigger picture, a podium or race win, and an early-race caution left him in an ideal position to capitalize.
“A wreck in front of me on the second lap led us to restart third," said Paul. "On the restart, second place made a move to the outside on the short straight between turn one and the keyhole, and the leader swung all the way left to squeeze him a bit. This left the inside open and I dove for it. Having just completed being passed, the car then dove low to defend the inside into the keyhole and we made contact. We ended up stuck in the sand at the keyhole exit and that ended our nine race top-eight finishing streak.
"There was no reason for us to be sitting in the sand screaming at each other. He could have given me some room, or I could have lifted, but we didn't. That's racing."
Paul will be helped, however, if he keeps his finishing prowess up, by F2000's rule to drop the lowest two point scores of each driver at season's end, effectively giving each full-season driver a pair of mulligans.
"My goal this season is still to finish in the top three in points," he added.
The F2000 paddock next heads to Summit Point along with a motorcycle event, F1600 and the newly formed Atlantic Championship Series.
While Paul has never been to the 10-turn, 2-mile Summit Point track, he has been busy pouring over video and learning the course on iRacing, a simulator.
"The plan for the next weekend at Summit Point is same as always, learn the track and then start taking down my lap times," Paul explained. "I am generally not the quickest the first time at a new track, so I don't have incredibly lofty expectations, but I am going to try and ride the momentum we had from a very fast Mid Ohio weekend. The car there was great, and we made more changes over the course of the weekend than I think we have in the entire two seasons prior, combined."