Mahopac, NY – Running over a half-shaft during qualifying, charging through the F2000Championship Series field and a top-five finish on Sunday were the weekend highlights forTim Paul and the No. 06 Screaming Monkey Racing/GTP/CellMark Paper Van Diemen for theseason opening events at VIRginia International Raceway.
The Franklin Pierce University student arrived on Wednesday in Danville, Virginia, and VIR’s17-turn road course for Thursday testing.
“We were fairly strong in testing,” said Paul, an AJ Foyt Racing development driver. “Thursdaytesting is one of my favorite things about the F2000 Championship Series. You really get to getback into the groove of the course and step your game up without too much pressure since thetiming and scoring is off.”
Fast forward one day, Friday featured an hour of track time, but a green race-track followingovernight rain – more lapping.
Paul was thus ready for qualifying on Saturday – after months out of the F2000 Championship-spec car.
“I said to my father at dinner Friday night that we were going to qualifying fifth and finishfourth. Unfortunately, on the first lap, as I took the green, I ran over debris from my goodfriend Zach Craigo's car that had broken on his first lap as well, which damaged the left frontsuspension sufficiently to prevent us from even completing one lap. Maybe I jinxed us Fridaynight. Either way, we had a hell of a job in front of us,” Paul explained.
Three hours gave the GTP crew time to get the No. 06 car back together, and as the green flagdropped, Paul picked off eight cars by turn three, rocketing from 26th to 18th. “From there I passed cars as I could, and then had an absolute brawl with Dave Weitzenhof, amultiple-time National Champion, and we came home 11th, eventually getting 10th place pointswhen another car was disqualified.”
Sunday would go better, no incidents in qualifying put Paul ninth on the grid with a lap of1:56.564 and he was able to avoid first turn drama.
“I couldn't believe that the full course caution hadn't come up when we came back by on thesecond lap. It looked like gridlock on the GW Bridge, but then the caution came. On the restart Ialmost made it past the WISKO car in front of me, and then in turn was almost passed by the carbehind. None of these moves proved fruitful as everyone defended intelligently and aggressively,and for the rest of the race I just tried to give Kevin Kopp as much grief as possible,” Paulcontinued. “We raced incredibly closely and aggressively, and most importantly, clean, as wehave countless times together in the past, and I think we put on from where I could see, maybethe best show in the entire grid for the remainder of the race.”
Sunday would yield a fifth place effort, Paul’s best VIR season-opening effort, and helped by“MLP” stickers on the No. 06.
“We raced this weekend with a sticker with the initials MLP on our cars in memory of GlennPhillip's of GTP's late wife, Mary. I would like to dedicate the whole weekend to Glenn and thememory of his wonderful wife,” Paul added.
The SMR team would also like to give a shout-out to AJ Foyt Racing and Takuma Sato on theirwin on the Streets of Long Beach.
Next up: oval rookie orientation in the USF2000 Series, at Lucas Oil Speedway in Indianapolis,May 10-11, before the “Night Before the 500” oval event on May 25.