SUMMIT PARK, W.Va. – Robert La Rocca had to find his way around Kevin Kopp for the race lead at Summit Point Motorsports Park on Saturday, but made the pass stick and then pulled away for his ninth F2000 Championship Series win in 11 races in 2012.
Wyatt Gooden held on to finish second, denying La Rocca a Championship-clinching day, with Kopp rounding out the top three.
Not only did La Rocca have to go the long way around Kopp – who took the lead on a three wide, on the outside-style move into turn one, but he fended off a hard-charging No. 6 of Gooden as the two ran what was a faster-than-qualifying-pace as the race developed, trading fast laps back and forth as rain loomed in the distance.
For La Rocca, his ninth win of the year ties a previous Series record, and should gift him the 2012 title at the end of Sunday, when round 12 of 14 is complete in the seven-weekend season with one doubleheader remaining at Watkins Glen Int’l in October.
“That start and opening lap was crazy, I’m still not sure what happened,” said La Rocca. “I got by Kopp into turn one and then just put my head down and tried to run a qualifying pace.”
The Venezuelan HP-Tech Motorsport driver, in his second F2000 season, also set fastest lap of the race, as the track cooled and rain clouds moved in, at a record-shattering 1:10.397.
That time also hands La Rocca the pole for Sunday’s race, and another three points, as the race two grid will be based upon race one fast laps.
Gooden, who won the most recent race at Mid-Ohio, started from pole and looked strong early, but after the leaders shuffled a few times, he was left having to track down La Rocca’s No. 10 , never quite getting close enough.
“Kopp made a terrific pass on the outside, but I wasn’t going to do anything dumb,” said Gooden, driving for Quantum Racing Services in a Van Diemen “Robert was quick today and the conditions were a bit different than yesterday. However, the tires are good for tomorrow’s race and we are fast.”