Team Rahal signs Danica Patrick to 2002 and 2003 driving contracts: young female driving star to race in cart ladder system. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 9, 2002) - Young American female driver Danica Patrick has signed to race with Team Rahal for the...
Team Rahal signs Danica Patrick to 2002 and 2003 driving contracts: young female driving star to race in cart ladder system.
MONTEREY, Calif. (June 9, 2002) - Young American female driver Danica Patrick has signed to race with Team Rahal for the reminder of the 2002 season and all of 2003 in the CART Ladder System, it was announced today by team owner Bobby Rahal at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Patrick, who impressed many open-wheel racing experts on European road circuits as a teenager, will participate in the Barber Dodge Pro Series later this year and drive in the entire CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2003 for Team Rahal. Rahal also said Patrick will test a Toyota Atlantic car in 2002 as preparation for the 2003 season.
"We are very excited to bring Danica to Team Rahal," said Rahal, the three-time CART champion. "Her racing credentials are outstanding with championships in karting and impressive runs in England and Europe. This lady has the talent to get to champ car racing. At age 16, she left her home in Illinois and went straight to some of the most competitive racing in the world in England. She has the determination and abilities to race in CART for many years."
Patrick, 20, of Roscoe, Ill., spent three years competing in the Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall divisions in England and Europe and recorded one of the finest performances by an American in the world renowned "Formula Ford Festival" in England. In 2000, Patrick finished second in the championship race, the highest finish ever by a female and the best placing by an American driver. Former CART champion and Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan also finished second in the 1974 Formula Ford Festival.
"I have to thank Bobby and his staff for giving me the opportunity to return to the United States and compete in CART," said Patrick. "The CART Ladder System is a great way to get to the champ cars and I'm anxious to drive in both the Barber Dodge Pro Series this year and the Toyota Atlantic series in 2003. I'm very excited for this chance."
Patrick, who captured three national karting titles before leaving for Europe in 1998, made her racing return to the U.S. on April 13 and captured the pro division over four-time Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendall and IRL driver Sarah Fisher in the 26th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"It's terrific to have a former Atlantic great like Bobby Rahal involved in the Toyota Atlantic Championship as a team owner," said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. "Bobby brings more than just another top-level team to the series, he's also a role model to many young drivers. In addition, we're thrilled to have Danica Patrick join the series as one of the top young drivers in America, and the recent 'pro' winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race."
Patrick has been active on the track this year with a variety of testing sessions including stints in a Toyota Atlantic car, Indy Lights car, Busch Grand National stock car, Ford-powered Midget and a BMW M-3 Le Mans sports car.
"I have been busy testing many cars this winter and spring but I wanted to go racing," said Patrick. "Now, with Team Rahal, I have the chance to compete again in some of the best open-wheel racing in the country with excellent equipment. It is the opportunity I have been looking for in my career."
Patrick is scheduled to drive in three Barber Dodge Pro races later this year beginning at Mid-Ohio in August. She will test a Pro Series car on June 25-26 in Sebring, Fla., and plans are formulated to Toyota Atlantic testing in July.
"We are very excited to have Danica and Team Rahal coming to the Toyota Atlantic Championship," said Vicki O'Connor, president and CEO of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. "Danica is one of the bright young racers in this country and Team Rahal is a proven championship effort. That combination is a great asset to our series. That combination also will give our series a bigger presence and exposure in the sports industry."
Patrick began her racing career at age 10 in karts and won her first national championship at age 12. At 15, she captured two WKA (World Karting Association) Grand National titles and set her sights on auto racing.
In 1998, after completing the Formula Ford racing school, Patrick competed in the Formula Vauxhall winter series in England. She returned to England full-time in 1999 and placed ninth in the Formula Vauxhall tour.
In 2000, she drove for Haywood Racing in Zetek Formula Ford Championship in England and competed in the Formula Ford European Series. She also served as a lead test driver for the Mygale car factory.
Patrick's remarkable performance at the Formula Ford Festival came against some of the most talented young drivers in the world including competitors who now serve as test drivers for Formula One teams. Last year, Patrick won the Gorsline Scholarship Award for the top up-and-coming American road racing driver