Barrett, Merrill Share Top Honors in the Pacific F2000 Finale at Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nev. (October 14, 2007) – The Pacific F2000 Championship presented by Hankook wound up in style with a pair of thrilling races held in perfect conditions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past weekend.

Patrick Barrett put the icing on his championship-winning campaign by emerging narrowly ahead of PR1 Motorsports teammate Thomas Merrill in a gripping contest on Saturday, while Merrill cemented second in the overall standings – and clinched Rookie of the Year honors – after an equally hard-fought contest the following afternoon.

“It was a challenging race,” said Merrill, from Salinas, Calif., after taking his second victory of the year and emerging just over a second clear of Jeff Westphal on Sunday. “There was a lot of catching and passing and repassing. It was a lot of fun and a great way to finish off the season.”

Two more podium finishes represented another excellent haul for Westphal, from San Carlos, Calif., even though the Team G.FRO driver had to settle for third in the overall standings behind Barrett and Merrill.

New Zealander Mitchell Cunningham also was in the thick of the battle. Spurred on by elder brother (and 2005 Indy Pro Series Champion) Wade, Cunningham even led for half of Sunday’s race in Dave Freitas Racing’s #99 Windward Properties/Robert Cunningham Construction/Sniper Systems Van Diemen before slipping back to third.

Barrett seemed to have taken control on Saturday afternoon. The 18-year-old from Los Osos, Calif., built up a clear advantage in the #3 Jim Russell Racing School/Alpinestars Van Diemen, only for it to be erased when the caution flags waved after James Hakewill spun his #88 ARC International Van Diemen in Turn Two.

Merrill, who had squeezed his #81 Merrill Farms/The Don Chapin Company/Ron Sutton's Winner's Circle Van Diemen past Westphal's #39 MCGC/DG Flooring/Team G.FRO Van Diemen in Turn One, took full advantage by getting the jump on Barrett at the restart. The two PR1 stars battled wheel-to-wheel around several corners before Merrill emerged in the lead. Undeterred, Barrett fought back. After another couple of side-by-side encounters, Barrett regained the point under braking for Turn One with less than two laps remaining.

"That was a very satisfying win," said Barrett. "I was really excited when I won."

Merrill had to be content with second, while Westphal finished a close third ahead of Chris Spreitzer, from Phoenix, Ariz., who fought impressively through from eighth on the grid in the #7 BWM Engineering Van Diemen. Spreitzer snatched fourth from the #29 Team G.FRO/Phoebe Hair/Sovereign Energy Van Diemen of Philip Metzger, from Littleton, Colo., immediately after the restart.

The drama on Sunday began in Turn Two, when Barrett tried to squeeze past pole-winning teammate Merrill on the outside line into Turn Two. It didn't work. Minor contact between the pair sent Barrett spinning to the back of the pack. Barrett rebounded to set comfortably the fastest lap of the race as he battled back to seventh.

"As much as I hate to admit it, [the Turn Two contact] was just a racing incident," admitted Barrett. "After that I just drove as fast as I could. It was the hardest I've ever driven this thing."

Cunningham grasped his opportunity and slipped through into the lead, but it was only a matter of time before he was tracked down and passed by both Merrill and Westphal.

"I thought I could hold them off, but they just motored up to me and drove on by," said Cunningham. "We weren't quite quick enough this weekend but it was still good to finish the season on the podium."

Metzger drove another good race to take fourth ahead of the youngest driver in the field, 16-year-old Nicky Freytag, from Paradise Valley, Ariz., who profited from the knowledge of new driver coach Richie Hearn and posted a promising drive in the #9 BWM Engineering Van Diemen.

Englishman Jeremy Shaw was delighted to finish eighth on both days in a rare outing aboard the #65 GS610 Maximum Performance Brake Fluid/Comar Performance Van Diemen. Shaw also scooped a pair of Masters class wins (for drivers over 51) ahead of the accomplished Yorba Linda, Calif., native Chuck Hulse (#19 Silicon Salvage/Team G.FRO Van Diemen). Expert honors (for drivers aged 35-50) fell to Ira Fierberg (#27 Personal Injury Law/Dave Freitas Racing Van Diemen) on Saturday and another ex-pat Briton, Hakewill, on Sunday.

Barrett leads Merrill into Turn 1

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

And to learn more about Pat's team go to www.PR1motorsports.com http://www.PR1motorsports.com/

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