Starting Our Fourth Year
The green flag is about to be thrown on the F2000 Championship Series’ fourth year. As in the last three years, we again start the season at Virginia International Raceway, a fantastic venue at which to get things rolling. Especially in April, when spring is bursting out in all its grandeur and the weather is usually very pleasant.
With a week to go this is a great time to look back in the archives and review our Series’ history at VIR. The inaugural weekend is always exciting. Teams are coming out of the winter months with usually only some early testing. How things stack up against competition doesn’t start to be realized until all the cars roll onto VIR’s historic racing surface. Every year obviously, VIR is when we have the most unknowns, with a large group of rookies coming into the fold.
The inaugural weekend of the Series was in April 2006. VIR was the opening location to test out the basic concepts of the then fledgling series. Radial Hankook tires were being used for the first time, and the wider rim sizes from the previous Cooper Series were still legal. Thirteen racers rolled off the grid for the first race. Matt McDonough went in the record books as the first race winner. He was followed by Mike Andersen (multi-time SCCA National Champion, and Jeremy Treadway. Jeremy set the fastest lap in that first race with a 1:58.3. He was followed by Craig Clawson and Mike Mazziotti. Craig has gone on to compete in every Series weekend for the past three years.
The second race of the weekend ended with Phil Lombardi on the top step of the podium. Next to him in second place was Chris Fahan, who had set the race’s fastest lap at 1:58.0. In third place was Jeremy Treadway. Paul Rieffle was fourth, and Bob Wright finished out the top five.
In 2007, weather played a big role in the drama of the weekend. Matt McDonough, driving for GTP, was returning as the incumbent champion from the inaugural season and considered the favorite. The first race of the weekend played out that way. It was not a gimme for Matt. Just behind him was a torrid battle between Jason Byers and Terrick Mansur. Terrick set the fastest lap in the race at 1:57.5. Thirty seven cars had left the grid for the first race of 2007, emphasizing the growth and acceptance of the Series in just one year. Rieffle who had been driving in 2006, now busied himself managing a multi-car team in the Series.
Just in time for the start of the second race Sunday afternoon a rain storm of monsoon proportions moved across the area. It was very wet. Matt had the early lead but tried to go just a little bit faster, and tossed his Van Dieman off. His was not the only car to slide off the racing surface. It got so bad Phil was told to checker the race early. Leading at the end was Keegan Van Sicklin. Followed by Rob Nicholas, Tim Minor, Brendan Puderbach, and Doug Kniffin. Kniffin had the fastest lap in the horrid conditions with a 2:35.3.
In the quest for a season championship every race counts. The 2007 season was contested to the last race, resulting in Matt finishing second in points behind Cole Morgan. Early in the season Cole skipped the open round at VIR, so he raced the rest of the season year with every race counting, and no cushion of having two races to drop. The lost win for Matt at VIR goes down as one of those “might have, should have, would have…” stories for the historians. Matt, being a class act, never whined about it. The story does point out how important these two opening races can be.
Until the 2008 weekend, no one driver had managed to win both opening round races. Anders Krohn set the tone for the 2008 season by doing just that. Anders, teamed up with Jonny Baker from Andersen Racing to dominate the two races driving near matching beautiful black and silver Van Diemans. Chris Miller (JDC Motorsports) finished third in the first race for his first Series podium. Of note, Remy Audette set the fastest lap in the first race (1:56.6). Remy returns this year as a favorite. In the second race, to show us all just how fast the new Hoosier tires could be, Anders laid down a 1:55.9 in what seemed from the stands to be an easy drive to victory over Baker. Remy finished third.
With the 2009 season starting just days away there is lots of anticipation. We have a large group of rookies entering the Series. Hoosier Tire returns this season after proving great in 2008. The upgrades to the Zetec engine mapping and air restrictor should provide faster cars. Anders Krohn has moved on to another area of pro racing. Cole Morgan has set his focus on winning the SCCA Runoffs in FC, because the schedule fits well around his recently acquired Army responsibilities.
So at the end of this season, as in the last three, we will crown a new name as Champion. Who will it be? One of the many rookies, or maybe Tim Minor returning to go for an overall Series title to go with last year’s Masters title. Also joining the Series with sights on both titles is Dave Weitzenhof, entering a Citation/Zetec. One thing for certain, with the competition in the field this year, it’s highly unlikely anyone can skip this opening round and go on to be the Series champion.