News and notes from the paddock at Watkins Glen International during the second Formula Race Promotions event of the 2016 season.
2006 F2000 Championship Series title-winner and 2007 runner-up Matt "Fast-Matt" McDonough is back in a car this weekend for the first time in three years.
McDonough last drove at Road Atlanta in 2013, finishing third. He will spend the weekend in the green No. 69 Radon Sport entry, and he said he may run the rest of the season. Earlier this year he competed in a 24-hour slot car race.
The Massachusetts native was the development driver for the Radon chassis development program in 2011. The Series Champion is no stranger to Watkins Glen either, driving well at the road course in a 2009 one-off weekend in a Piper chassis.
Bamford Engine Change
Among the challenges seen on Friday, Steve Bamford suffered a rare engine failure when his Ford Zetec expired to open the morning's practice session.
The Championship leader will be ready to go on Saturday morning for qualifying with Rice Race Prep replacing the motor in time for Friday's afternoon practice. It was a more relaxed atmosphere, compared to their speedy transmission replacement at Road Atlanta between sessions.
Auriemma Shows Rain Pace
A wet track did not deter Ben Auriemma, who was fastest in the first F1600 practice of the weekend by a significant margin of 1.8 seconds in his Exclusive Autosport Spectrum at Watkins Glen.
"Commitment," Auriemma answered, when asked about his quick lap to close out the session. "It was good to have experience here, building on last year. The new pavement is pretty grippy, even in the wet."
Marking his second season of F1600 competition, Auriemma was recently accepted to Duke University.
Saturday's F2000 race at WGI will be run as the Glenn Phillips Memorial Classic, in memory of the GTP Motorsports team owner - which was among the founding teams to the F2000 Championship in 2006.
There will also be an added incentive for F2000 teams on Saturday morning, with a $150 check from CellMark Paper and two tires from Hoosier up for grabs for the pole position.
Making the jump to the Atlantic Championship Series, Lee Alexander is driving a red Swift 016/Mazda for Comprent Motorsports for the 2016 season, and hopes to build on his debut performance at Road Atlanta in April.
"I love the Atlantic car," he said. "It's fun, this is my first open wheel experience after sports racers. I'm still getting used to the car, especially in the wet. We're also going to a lot of tracks I haven't been to this year, so I am getting used to the car and learning the tracks, and also fellow drivers' behavior."
The Watkins Glen weekend is throwing a weather challenge to the paddock - with rain on Friday morning in varying quantities with track conditions changing by the turn.
With a packed weekend there will be plenty of power on the track to form a dry line if the rain does stop, which weather models do hint at. Sunday will be dry, but brisk.