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8 and Proud
By Doyle Potenteau
The Daily Courier

Clothes shopping isn't normally on Mike Richardson's to-do list during a race weekend. He might make an exception this Thursday through Sunday in Vancouver. While taking in the Calgary Stampede earlier this month, the Kelowna resident added some items to his wardrobe, including a new t-shirt with an eight stencilled on the back. One week later, in Toronto, Richardson finished eighth in the Barber Dodge Pro Series' seventh stop of the season. "And the weird thing is," said Richardson, "I didn't know there was a number on the back until I was done shopping. I guess it was destiny. When I'm down (in Vancouver), I think I'll look for a four or a five. "Or maybe a one, two or three." Two steps below CART, Barber Dodge is a ladder series to help aspiring and talented racers reach the higher leagues, such as CART and its feeder division, Toyota Atlantic. Notably, Barber Dodge's 2002 points champion, A.J. Allmendinger of California, is the points leader in Toyota Atlantic. This weekend in Vancouver, as during Toronto's Molson Indy, Barber Dodge will once again be display. In fact, with Toyota Atlantic taking this weekend off, Barber Dodge will whet appetites Sunday morning by being the appetizer before CART's main course.

"I'm looking forward to Vancouver, but with it being a Canadian stop, there's also going to be a lot of pressure to do well," said the 35-year-old Richardson, who reserved 18 seats for family and friends from B.C. and Alberta. "I know I'll have good support there, which is good. It seems all the Canadian dates have great fans who come out and support the sport. "With no Toyota Atlantic, it means we get extra track time, and you can never get enough seat time to learn a track's layout. I can't wait for the extra practice sessions." There's a reason why he's so anxious to hop in his blue and silver Prestige Inns Dodge. In Toronto two weekends ago, the series sophomore trekked into Ontario with plenty of confidence, despite missing the past three races because of his busy engineering business. In his first practice lap on wet conditions, his certainty was crushed as he tagged the wall. In trying wear off a smooth coating off new rain tires by spinning them, Richardson lost control after applying too much gas around one corner. "That was such a stupid mistake," said Richardson, who qualified 15th out of 16. "I just scuffed the wall, but it was enough to put me out for the session . . . it almost put a damper on my whole weekend as I didn't want to push the car anymore. Everything worked out in the end, by finishing eighth, but I had to play catch-up during qualifying. "I certainly won't be making the same mistake in Vancouver." The series has several other Canadian drivers, including Josh Beaulieu of Langley and Ward Imrie of Winnipeg, who finished sixth in Toronto.