Cunningham and Barrett Share the Pacific F2000 Spoils at Willow Springs

Patrick Takes Championship Lead With a Win and Second,

Rosamond,Calif. (April 1, 2007) by Jeremy Shaw

Mirroring the opening two races of the season a few weeks earlier at California Speedway, two talented youngsters shared the victory spoils this weekend as the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook Tires visited Willow Springs International Raceway.

New Zealander Mitchell Cunningham, taking part in just his second weekend of car racing, stunned everyone with a dominant performance on Saturday. When the Kiwi was hit by misfortune the following afternoon, Patrick Barrett, from Los Osos, Calif., took full advantage by leading throughout the 17-lap race and cementing his position atop the championship points table.

Race One was all about Cunningham. The 20-year-old former kart racer from Auckland, New Zealand, qualified Dave Freitas Racing’s #99 Windward Properties/Robert Cunningham Construction/Sniper Systems Van Diemen comfortably on the pole, and while he was beaten away from the start by the more experienced Barrett, Cunningham quickly regained control and went on to score his first-ever race win in just his third start.

"Really pleased," he summarized succinctly. "The guys did a great job and gave me a really good race car. We had a safety car [full-course caution] about halfway through the race and I wasn’t particularly sure what to do at the restart, but I managed to get a bit of a lead and then hold him [Barrett] back."

Barrett wasn’t at all happy with the handling of his #3 Jim Russell Racing School/Alpinestars/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen, which was exhibiting too much understeer for his liking, but the 17-year-old never relaxed the pressure on Cunningham and finished just over one second in arrears after 19 laps of the fast, 2.5-mile road course.

Jeff Westphal, 20, from San Carlos, Calif., ran in third through the first half of the race in the #39 MCGC/DG Flooring/Team G.FRO Van Diemen. He fell as low as seventh following a chaotic restart, when Shaun Modisette, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., was adjudged to have jumped too soon, but Westphal displayed remarkable poise as he fought his way back up the order, then passed Thomas Merrill’s #81 Merrill Farms/Smith & Hook Wineries/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen with a bold maneuver around the outside of Turns Eight and Nine on the very last lap to regain a place on the podium.

"It was awesome," declared an elated Westphal.

Modisette (#26 Carson Trailer/PR1 Motorsports Van Diemen) held third for a few laps after the restart, but slipped to eighth at the checkered flag before being assessed a two-position penalty for his over-ambitious restart.

Round 3, Saturday.Third-place Jeff Westphal, race winner Mitchell Cunningham and runner-up finisher Patrick Barrett celebrate on the podium.
(Photo by John Barrett)

On Sunday, Cunningham once again snared the pole position, well clear of the chasing pack. Sadly, his hopes of another win were dashed as soon as he pulled away from the grid and the engine refused to run cleanly. A faulty spark plug was discovered to be the culprit. Cunningham resumed several laps in arrears and again served notice of his talent by snaring the two bonus points for posting the fastest lap of the race.

Barrett gratefully took up the slack and edged away to a comfortable win, his second of the year.

"We were pretty baffled because we never got the car handling as well as it had in testing on Friday," related Barrett, "but when Mitchell had his trouble and we got to the front, it was pretty much plain sailing."

Chris Spreitzer (#7 Anglo American Racing/BWM Engineering Van Diemen), from Phoenix, Ariz., overcame a disappointing day on Saturday, when he finished fifth, and held second until the final stages when Modisette came charging through from the back of the pack.

Modisette's charge was extremely impressive - "That was one of the most fun races I’ve ever had," noted the 19-year-old – but he had taken advantage of a much fresher set of tires, exploiting an apparent loophole in the regulations. Afterward, Modisette was the subject of an official protest, so the results will remain provisional.

Spreitzer finished third on the road ahead of Westphal, who enjoyed another solid run, and the top Masters contender (over 51 years of age), Chuck Hulse, from Yorba Linda, Calif., who posted a very strong drive in the #19 Silicone Salvage/Team G.FRO Van Diemen.

Patrick Barrett wins Round 4, Sunday
(Photo by Ross Merrill))

RESULTS – Rounds 3 & 4 (of 12), Willow Springs International Raceway, March 31/April 1, 2007:

Saturday qualifying:

1. Mitchell Cunningham (Van Diemen RF03), 1m18.493s; 2. Patrick Barrett (Van Diemen RF05), 1m19.532s; 3. Jeff Westphal (Van Diemen RF05), 1m19.648s; 4. Thomas Merrill (Van Diemen RF05), 1m19.903s; 5. Chris Spreitzer (Van Diemen RF02), 1m19.999s; 6. Philip Metzger (Van Diemen RF06), 1m20.437s; 7. Shaun Modisette (Van Diemen RF01), 1m20.466s; 8. Peter Hastrup (Van Diemen RF02), 1m20.894s; 9. James Hakewill (Van Diemen RF03), 1m21.411s; 10. Dwight Rider (Van Diemen RF01), 1m21.436s; 11. Scott Rarick (Piper DS5), 1m21.550s; 12. Bob Negron (Van Diemen RF99), 1m21.888s; 13. Ira Fierberg (Van Diemen RF05), 1m21.900s; 14. John Brumder (Van Diemen RF01), 1m21.978s; 15. Peter Hansel (Van Diemen RF02), 1m22.006s; 16. Nicky Freytag (Van Diemen RF02), 1m22.623s; 17. Chuck Hulse (Van Diemen RF03), 1m22.686s; 18. Tom Hope (Van Diemen RF99-H&H Pinto), 1m27.335s.

(All use Zetec/Quicksilver engines unless noted.)

Saturday race

Round 3 (19 laps): 1. Cunningham, 28m41.962s; 2. Barrett, 28m42.984s; 3. Westphal, 28m47.721s; 4. Merrill, 28m48.130s; 5. Spreitzer, 28m53.536s; 6. Rarick, 28m56.963s; 7. Hastrup, 28m57.334s; 8. Hansel, 29m00.152s; 9. Hulse, 29m02.889s; 10. Modisette, 28m57.722s+; 11. Fierberg, 29m04.515s; 12. Metzger, 29m06.701s; 13. Brumder, 29m07.322s; 14. Negron, 29m07.791s; 15. Hakewill, 7 laps, not running/overheating; 16. Rider, 3 laps, not running/off course; 17. Freytag, 3 laps, not running/off course; DNS Hope, engine.

(+ Modisette penalized two positions for jump-start.)

Margin of victory: 1.022s.

Winner's average speed: 99.305 mph.

Fastest race lap: Cunningham, 1m20.270, 112.122 mph.

Experts class winner (35-50): Rarick.

Masters class winner (over 50): Hastrup.

Nordskog Instruments Hard Charger Award: Hulse (17th to 9th).

Sunday qualifying:

1. Cunningham, 1m19.400s; 2. Barrett, 1m20.346s; 3. Westphal, 1m20.548s; 4. Spreitzer, 1m21.128s; 5. Merrill, 1m21.184s; 6. Freytag, 1m21.291s; 7. Modisette, 1m21.413s; 8. Fierberg, 1m21.502s; 9. Hulse, 1m21.636s; 10. Hansel, 1m21.783s; 11. Hastrup, 1m21.783s; 12. Negron, 1m22.061s; 13. Metzger, 1m22.138s; 14. Rarick, 1m22.632s; 15. Bill Kincaid (Van Diemen RF03), 1m22.681s; 16. Rider, 1m22.819s; 17. Brumder, 1m22.967s.

Sunday race:

Round 4 (17 laps): 1. Barrett, 23m28.317s; 2. Modisette, 23m31.340s; 3. Spreitzer, 23m35.248s; 4. Westphal, 23m35.860s; 5. Hulse, 23m45.399s; 6. Merrill, 23m46.423s; 7. Hastrup, 23m47.044s; 8. Fierberg, 23m56.937s; 9. Freytag, 23m58.096s; 10. Hansel, 23m58.875s; 11. Rarick, 24m01.353s; 12. Negron, 24m06.058s; 13. Brumder, 24m14.485s; 14. Rider, 24m18.794s; 15. Kincaid, 24m36.882s; 16. Metzger, 15 laps, not running/off course; 17. Cunningham, 12 laps.

(Results remain provisional pending protest)

Margin of victory: 3.023s.

Winner's average speed: 108.640 mph.

Fastest race lap: Cunningham, 1m21.557s, 110.352 mph.

Experts class winner: Fierberg.

Masters class winner: Hulse.

Provisional point positions (after 4 of 12 rounds): 1. Barrett, 110; 2. Spreitzer, 94; 3. Westphal, 84; 4. Cunningham, 63; 5. Modisette, 56; 6. Rarick, 52; 7. Merrill, 50; 8. Freytag, 48; 9. Hulse, 47; 10. Hastrup & Metzger, 44; 12. Fierberg, 42; etc.

Next races: Rounds 5 & 6 at Buttonwillow Raceway, Bakersfield, Calif., May 5/6.

For more information on the Pacific F2000 series please go to http://www.PacificF2000.com/


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