Palacio Scores First Win on Last Lap
Alton, VA - Nicolas Palacio started on pole but only led a single lap, leading across the finish line to score his first career F2000 Championship Series victory in the season-opener at VIR. Palacio lost the lead on the start from pole to Reece Everard, who gapped the field but had mechanical problems on the last lap coming out of the last turn, with Palacio charging to the victory by just two tenths of a second.
"I didn't know what to think," said Palacio. "He pulled away and did a good job. I was driving with a flat-spotted left front with a bad vibration the entire race. We managed to hang in there and I was trying to hang on to second. I saw Reece slowing on the last lap and I kept my foot in it."
Palacio gets a chance for a sweep on Sunday at VIR, as he starts on pole again.
Everard took the lead from the outside of the front row on the opening lap and fended Palacio off on the restart before setting sail and gapping the field only to settle for second in his Series debut.
"The last couple of laps, there was either a gearbox problem or a fuel issue," said Everard, driver of the No. 61 Van Diemen. The 23-year-old is at the track with a small family effort for his F2000 debut. "Coming out of the last corner it was the worst it had been and Nick got a run. It was an awesome race, I can't complain about anything."
Completing the podium was Jenks in the No. 68 Van Diemen/Mazda. Jenks fell to fourth in the early going but was able to get by John McCusker midway through the race.
"John (McCusker) ran me hard, it was a lot of fun," said Jenks, who also won the Masters Class. "But I need to thank Tumenas Motorsports, I put the car in the fence in qualifying this morning and they put it all back together."
Rob Allaer charged from the back of the pack to finish fourth for LTD Motorsports, while John McCusker completed the top five.
Peter Gonzalez finished sixth despite an opening lap spin; while Robert Wright and Connor Gawry were seventh and eighth, respectively. Al Guibord settled for ninth after a late-race spin, and Chris Gumprecht completed the top 10.
Matt McDonough was 11th after running as high as fourth as a fuel pressure issue caused him to retire.
Brandon Dixon had a day to forget. After starting in eighth the driver of the No. 5 Citation was forced to pit road early; rejoining the field well down the order and then getting involved in an incident that ended his race.
2016 VIR finale winner Bob Reid also pulled off late in the race, with smoke coming from his No. 12 R-Sport entry.
Tim Paul also saw a top 10 run go out the window, retiring with a reported mechanical issue just past the half-way mark of the race.
There was a brief full course caution period early in the race for a lost wheel to be retrieved by VIR's safety team. The wheel was reported to have come from Dave Weitzenhof's No. 67.
Of note, a late decision for two-time IndyCar race winner Alex Barron to race for Polestar didn't amount to charge to the front as the 1997 Atlantic Champion pitted on the race start with an apparent issue.
It was an action packed day at VIR, with temperatures soaring to 90 degrees for a full schedule of action, with F1600 and Atlantic complimenting F2000 in addition to all the classes of the Pirelli World Challenge. All track activities were run under the USAC Racing sanctioning banner.
The F2000 Championship Series is now setup for a thrilling weekend conclusion from VIR on Sunday afternoon, race two of the 2017 season. Nicholas Palacio and Matt McDonough will lead the field to the green flag; while contender Robert Allaer will start at the back of the field.