Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mazda Road to Indy: The US F2000 Oval Clinic

A lot of young drivers coming to race open-wheel cars here in the United States often underestimate the challenges of oval-track racing. Its a mistake that a lot of fans make as well frequently chanting the mantra, "Go fast, turn left, go fast, turn left..." As those of us who have followed Indy car racing over the years, there's a heck of a lot more to being successful on an oval that "go fast, turn left." As a fan, that lack of respect for ovals just results in one looking silly, but as a racer, it can result in career-ending meeting with the wall. One the biggest strengths of the Mazda Road to Indy system is that oval racing is a part of each rung of the ladder.


"The USF2000 series has prepared hundreds of drivers to advance in their careers over the past 17 years and many have climbed the ladder to the top rung of the IZOD IndyCar Series. One of our main goals is to provide complete training on all types of circuits to enable our drivers to achieve positive results as they climb today’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder. This oval clinic is an integral part of that plan. Our instructors are all experienced professionals on ovals, and some came up through the USF2000 ladder on their way to the top. The clinic will provide significant assistance to drivers and we are proud to present it for the first time." -- Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions


Drivers in the program are running ovals right from the start in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda along with the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear beginning on the Saturday night before the Indianapolis 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis (*sigh*), a tricky 5/8-mile oval on the Northwest side of Indianapolis. The Firestone Indy Lights drivers face an even tougher challenge with their first oval of the season being the extremely challenging Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Always in the past, drivers new to the challenges of oval racing only had the advice of their teams or perhaps the occasional interaction with the official league driving coaches. By no means do I mean to slight the great driving coaches INDYCAR has made available, but you're not getting the intense one-on-one coaching for days on end that some of these young drivers need.


Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions which promotes the US F2000 National Championship, has created an Oval Clinic to take place at the Indianapolis Motor speedway on May 6th to give drivers new, or minimally experienced, to oval racing an intense tutorial with advice and wisdom from some seriously successful oval-track racers. The instructors for the clinic include Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winners Dan Wheldon and Al Unser, Jr., Johnny Unser, and 1998 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Steve Knapp. That's a pretty talent-laden line-up for the young up and coming drivers to tap, and in Wheldon's case, someone who been where these young drivers are now having never raced an oval before.


"When I first started with USF2000 in 1999, ovals were not only new in terms of driving but I had never seen one before. It is difficult when you come over from Europe. You underestimate the challenge of oval racing. It is not a lack of respect; it is just difficult to understand. USF2000 provided experienced drivers to help people like me utilize their knowledge and make the transition. It was a great learning experience. You need to have this type of input and be a sponge to learn all you can. USF2000 worked incredibly well for me and I am very happy to participate in the oval clinic to help up-and-coming drivers in the same way I was guided at the start of my career." -- Dan Wheldon, 2005 Indianpolis 500 Mile Race Winner


Will this help? Well, it certainly couldn't hurt! Also, the clinic attendees from US F2000 and Star Mazda will be able to apply their lessons the very next day on May 7th at the Lucas Oil Raceway. If you're going to be in town for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, I'd encourage you to make it out to Carburetion Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday to see the Firestone Freedom 100, and to Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday night to see the US F2000, Star Mazda, and USAC Midget racers for the Night Before the 500. You won't be disappointed, and these young racers deserve our support.


Doug Patterson is the Mazda Road to Indy Editor and Chief Photographer at www.openpaddock.net and a long time member of the www.IndyCarGarage.com


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1 comment:

X said...

Cool article!