When you're a young racing star on the way up, every weekend is a step toward your goal. And this weekend at the Molson Indy Vancouver, Lynx Racing drivers David Rutledge and Sara Senske will be climbing that stairway to the stars at top...
When you're a young racing star on the way up, every weekend is a step toward your goal. And this weekend at the Molson Indy Vancouver, Lynx Racing drivers David Rutledge and Sara Senske will be climbing that stairway to the stars at top speed.
Rutledge, 23, a Vancouver native, is following in the footsteps of his hero, the late Greg Moore. Starting with the Vancouver Karting Club, he has focused every waking moment of his life for the last ten years on racing. In the past two years he has become a top driver in the stepping-stone CART Toyota Atlantic series with the Lynx Racing team, a unique driver development program owned by women that has produced such stars as Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Forsythe), Memo Gidley (Target Chip Ganassi) and Alex Barron (CART and IRL). In the 2001 season, Rutledge has won three races - all from the pole - and is embroiled in a heated, two-driver battle for the championship with a seat in the CART FedEx series beckoning for next year.
"I've been working to get to this point for a long time, and it feels good to be just one step - even if it is a big one - away from my goal," says Rutledge. "With only three races left in the championship, the pressure is quite intense and this is where you find out what a driver and team are really made of. It's been a tough season in some respects, with more bad luck than good, but Lynx is a strong team and they've made me a strong driver and together we'll keep fighting right down to the last lap."
Rutledge's Lynx teammate, Sara Senske, is climbing the same stairway of the stars, and has taken some important steps this year. At the very beginning of the season, she drove in the 'Pro' division of the Toyota Pro/ Celebrity Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. And just a few weeks ago, she made history at the Target Grand Prix of Chicago when she became the first female driver to qualify on the front row and finish on the podium at a CART-sanctioned event.
Senske is currently one step farther down the stairway, racing in CART's "Official Entry Level Racing Series" -- the Barber Dodge Pro Series. A baseball metaphor best explains the situation: CART is the major leagues; Atlantic is triple-A and Barber Dodge is college varsity. The difference, of course, is that while there are literally hundreds of professional baseball players, there are about twenty-five CART drivers - making the transition from semi-pro to major leaguer one fraught with far more uncertainty.
"I've been a Lynx driver for five years, and it's been a great, ongoing education; but I learned more this year than in all the others combined," says Senske, 23, of Kennewick, Washington. "And Vancouver is another major step in my education as a driver. Not only would I like to add a good finish on a street circuit to my resume, but to do it in front of such knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans would be a big plus." Michael Valiante, 21, another rising racing star from Vancouver, also looks set to race alongside Rutledge in the Atlantic event on Sunday. Last-minute sponsor negotiations look very positive and the Lynx team has shipped an extra car to Vancouver for his use.
Valiante, an international karting champion and graduate of the Barber Dodge Pro Series, has driven four very strong races with the Lynx team this year, with a best result of starting alongside Rutledge on the front row at Montreal and finishing second.
"It's very important to me to participate and do well in this race, and I have a lot of support from friends and associates in Vancouver who believe in me," says Valiante. "I appreciate the Lynx team going to such extraordinary lengths to try and get me in the race, and I expect to justify the faith and trust so many people have put in me, this weekend and in the future."
On-track action begins Friday, August 31. Barber Dodge qualifying is 8:30 - 8:55 am, and Atlantic qualifies 1:00 - 1:30 pm, Saturday, September 1. The Barber Dodge Race is at 3:15 pm Saturday, while the 38-lap Atlantic race takes the green flag at 11:15 am, Sunday, September 2.
2001 marks the 11th anniversary of Lynx Racing, one of the most unique organizations in auto racing today. Created and owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty, Lynx is both a championship winning racing team and a uniquely successful driver development program that focuses on a driver's mental, psychological and spiritual growth in addition to their on-track skills. The Lynx mission is to seek out young drivers with the desire and potential to become champions at the highest levels of the sport and provide them with the funding, equipment and training to take the last step toward realizing that potential, a process the team calls 'Destiny by Design.' Lynx alumni include CART FedEx drivers Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron and Memo Gidley.