F2000 Flashback: Watkins Glen 2009
Who can forget the show the F2000 Championship Series put on at the Glen in 2009? Well if you don’t remember, or are new to the Series, consider this a recap of the most thrilling weekend of the 2009 season.
The highest car count of the season in the middle of the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression produced some 35 entries for the event alongside IndyCar, Indy Lights and World Challenge.
The championship battle was as hot as it was going to get with Matthew Inge leading by seven points over Chris Miller and Remy Audette, who were tied for second. Those three had broken away from the rest of the field into runaway points leaders and had all won races at that point in the year.
So the stage was set, all the regulars, plus a bunch more cars, Front Range Motorsports made the trek from Colorado, St. Clair fielded more cars than usual and R-Sport showed up with a fleet. Ardie Greenamyer made his Series debut. Even the Fat Boys showed up.
The big concern coming into the event would be the huge amount of traffic during qualifying.
Phil Lombardi was quoted in a preview press release saying: “As far as the races go, I want to be a factor and show what I know we are capable of.”
A last minute deal put 2006 Champion Matt McDonough in the field in Jesse Yorio’s #11 Piper DF-5.
Notably, Alegra Motorsports would field only one car for Fabio Orsolon, as this year’s dominating driver, Victor Carbone, was only 16-years old at the time and was in the process of various legal proceedings to be able to race at the Glen the following weekend in a SCCA regional race.
Group A Racing unloaded their two cars in front of an eager crowd, as the Long Island based squad showed off some fancy new body work on Jonathan Scarallo’s #22. Little did the team know at the time that their mechanics would be staying up 26 hours straight to put race cars back together as a spare bellhousing was literally driven up from Long Island on a moment’s notice.
The weekend would produce Scarallo’s best qualifying effort of the year with a fourth place starting position, but, unfortunately, the young American would fail to finish both races due to contact.
Caitlin Johnston would spend time with IndyCar star Danica Patrick – and those pictures would produce some interesting traffic spikes on the F2000 website in the week after.
Radon Sport introduced some interesting aero bits for the Van Diemen and that was the first use of the now-common F2000 subhead: “Wing of the Month Club”.
Matthew Inge and Chris Miller paced the opening practices on a wet race track before things dried out for qualifying.
And then it was the “Chris Miller show”, as the American dropped the track record during qualifying to take pole by some seven tenths of a second ahead of Remy Audette, Matthew Inge, Al Guibord Jr., and Matt McDonough – in the Piper, who was 50lbs overweight in post qualifying tech inspection.
Ben Searcy brought out a lengthy black-flag during the session when he made contact with the outside wall on the front-straight. The three time race winner and 2009 Rookie of the Year would not make that day’s race.
Chris Miller cruised to his third victory of the season in race #1, which saw a bunch of caution flags and actually ended with a red flag. Miller edged out Phil Lombardi and Remy Audette, who finished the race missing a front wing just inches ahead of a hard charging Lombardi. Inge tangled with Audette early in the race to finish laps down as Miller was gifted the points lead.
A big incident three laps into the race saw a flying John Dole in the bus stop chicane and multiple cars out of the race.
The track went green shortly thereafter and Matt McDonough nearly snuck under Chris Miller for the lead going into turn one, McDonough would fall victim to Audette as the two contested second place in a highly entertaining battle.
McDonough would eventually spin in turn nine, Audette clipped him, ripping the front wing off the #21 Audette Racing Van Diemen. Guibord Jr. narrowly missed the stalled Piper chassis and seconds later Scarallo made heavy contact, blocking the track and ending the race under a red flag. Although, the moments following the incident would see Lombardi and Audette – missing a front wing - in an epic race for second.
Top Ten: Miller, Lombardi, Audette, Guibord Jr,, Camadella, McCrone, McCusker, Wright, Fatur, Rider.
The following day Inge sent a message by taking pole and dropping the track record further. Chris Miller would line up alongside, and then it was almost a full second back to Audette, Scarallo, Guibord, Jr., Lombardi, Gumprecht, McDonough, Searcy and Fatur.
Fabio Orsolon would start 31st due to electrical gremlins.
Phil Lombardi would go home with a big victory ahead of Inge and Guibord Jr. in a race that was somehow more entertaining than Friday’s 30-minute feature.
32 cars made it through turn one, and moment’s later the track went yellow for debris in the bus stop. Coming to the restart, Tom Fatur, Phil Lombardi and Jonathan Scarallo tangled, and Scarallo ended up in the pit-wall and out of the race. The incident would bend Fatur’s steering and send Scarallo’s front wing into Caitlin Johnston’s cockpit.
As that was unfolding, Matt McDonough dove to the inside going into turn one, putting the Piper chassis into the lead from fifth place – but allegations flew almost instantly that the track had gone back to yellow.
With the incident cleaned up the green flag dropped from the flag stand and Lombardi snuck past McDonough for the lead, who suddenly had his hands full trying to keep Chris Miller behind him. Inge watched.
The two touched, McDonough ended up in the wall and Miller drove back to the pits with a cut tire and managed to make contact with Robert Wright on the way, sending the Series veteran into the wall with a massive crash, while a full course caution came out for Mark Defer, who had crashed coming onto the front straight.
JDC changed the right-rear on Miller’s car and sent him back out in 24th. The green flag appeared again (green-white-checkered anyone?) with two laps to go, and Miller, somehow, managed to finish 12th and salvage some points.
Lombardi drove away as Inge got around Guibord Jr. going into turn one for second place. Audette would come home fourth ahead of Nicholas, Searcy, Orsolon, Gumprecht, Clawson and Finelli.
Yes, Orsolon drove from 31st to 7th in just a few green flag laps and Miller would leave New York the points leader.
“Tempers Fly at Watkins Glen” comes to mind reading internet headlines the following day as the paddock was an interesting place to be following Sunday’s race.
Protests were flying left and right, drivers were exchanging words with each other and refusing to comment about anything to the Series communications staff, but above all, there were a flock of spectators checking out the F2000 cars and most of them were eager to tell anyone what a great show they had just watched.