After two days of a simulated CART-Champ Car Barber Dodge Pro Series race weekend, Joey D'Agostino won the 'Big Scholarship' Run-Off by stepping to the fore in the final on-track session for the six competitors.

The 18-year old won the top prize of $100,000, to be used during the 2004 Barber Dodge season.

The six young drivers had earned their way into the twelfth annual Run-Off by being frontrunners in the 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER magazine. In addition to D'Agostino, 28-year old Gerardo Bonilla, Ben Freudenberg, Brian Frisselle, Philippe Gelinas, and Matt Jaskol were all hoping to impress the judges, comprised of driver-turned-SPEED commentator Tommy Kendall, RuSport driver development coach Barry Waddell, journalists Gordon Kirby and Jeremy Shaw, and professional drivers and Skip Barber coaches Peter Argetsinger, David Loring, Rod McLeod, Oswaldo Negri and Jim Pace.

Despite their best efforts, however, the panel was unanimous in voting the top award to D'Agostino after he put up a stunning set of lap times in the final 'race' session, the majority of which were five- to seven-tenths quicker than the rest of the field. The achievement was all the more impressive considering that, in all the other practice and qualifying sessions, the difference between the fastest and the slowest driver was never more than 0.450 seconds.

D'Agostino, a noted karter in addition to his Formula Dodge exploits and the son of a race engineer, also put up a fastest race lap that was 0.381 seconds quicker than what had been the fastest lap of the weekend, set by Freudenberg. Freudenberg was awarded second place in the Run-off, and thus earned $50,000 for 2004.

"In the dozen years we've been doing conducting the Big Scholarship, this year was probably the most difficult to choose among these guys," said Pace, the weekend's chief steward, "Everyone was fast, everyone gave good feedback, everyone is media savvy and articulate. This really was a unique group. That's why we put them out for the simulated race, to gather one more data set and see if anyone could separate themselves from what was clearly a stellar field."

As a result of the intense closeness of the competition and the talent shown behind the wheel of the Reynard-Dodges, Bonilla, Frisselle, Gelinas and Jaskol also earned $30,000 each to use against 2004 Barber Dodge race weekends.


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