Wednesday morning arrives with a cool chill in the air for Florida, and the drivers entered the race shop walking lightly on their feet. The knowledge that all their competition efforts were behind them seemed lost on the young faces, while the gravity of the results yet to be announced distorted both time and space as the 10 hopeful karters mingled about. The herd of cars and vans departed by 9:30AM and headed to a Star Mazda team race shop across town. The fact that race car drivers were unleashed on public streets post-rush hour fortunately went unnoticed by local police as the winding train of vehicles through traffic seemed determined to remain bunched as if the Starters’ Flag was about to drop…. no one wanted to miss the Awards portion of the event!
Series Promoter, Dan Andersen, introduced the dignitaries and drivers after the entire group spent a few minutes perusing the race shop and asking questions that primarily revolved around “carbon tub vs. steel space frame” race cars and the differences between them. Each Driver had a few words of thanks and reflection about the event that seemed truly genuine and very mature for a youthful crowd. These racers certainly have proved that their admission to the Mazda Road to Indy Ladder system is deserved.
INDYCAR and the USF2000 Series distributed mementos to the judges and officials that were tasked with making the final decisions that culminated in awarding the Scholarship Prize of a fully funded ride in the USF2000 Opening races in March 2012. Comments offered prior to announcing the winner helped explain the magnitude of the Talent that was chosen for this inaugural event:
• “…these are serious racing cars that provided each of you great opportunities to learn what professional racing is about.”
• “… Roger Penske has famously said : Great Effort = Great Results, and each of you has convinced the judges you understand this”
• “This has been an incredible opportunity for each of you as there is no other Ladder System like this in the world, and the training you have received is simply not available anywhere…”
• “…the judging was based on many factors beyond just Lap times and consistency. The media interviews, engineer de-briefs, interaction with coaches, and your ability to put-into-practice made the decisions for the Judges very challenging.”
• “The progress as a group of young drivers with little or no formula car experience in just 5 or 10 laps was quite astonishing !”
• “…you should do whatever you can to gain seat-time with quality teams like USF2000. Seat-time is very valuable, it is harder to get as you climb-the-ladder, and it gets much more expensive as you go up!”
• “…look at how much you improved in just 2 short days!”
The winner was announced, and Bobby Kelly was recognized. After the photos, accolades, and a few words from him, the statement was made that summarized the event quite cleanly: “These USF2000 cars are multiple steps above Skip Barber cars — even those of you with some school-car experience realize this is a BIG step ! We (the Judges) had to consider ‘Who will make the best use of the prize?’, and that was Bobby. Most of you (other drivers) have the ability to make a career in motor racing, and like racing – not everybody can win… not this time.”
As the crowd began to depart, I was reminded of a famous line in “CannonBall Run”…. Racers being true-to-form, it only took 1 driver to say “hey- did you see that kart track on the way here?” and the fuse was lit. A group of 7 racers (and their parents) descended on the unsuspecting kart track like a pack of hungry wolves that hadn’t satisfied the urge to measure who was best on the track despite two days of intense competition. It is a certainty that these 2012 Inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine drivers will be making their presence known to many in the racing world for years to come.
Team Managing Director (TMD)
Driver Recruitment Officer (DRO)