CHANGING HORSES Lynx Racing drivers Memo Gidley and Sara Senske will trade their usual mounts for a pair of interesting challenges this weekend at Sears Point International Raceway; Gidley will drive in the GT America Stock Car race and...
Lynx Racing drivers Memo Gidley and Sara Senske will trade their usual mounts for a pair of interesting challenges this weekend at Sears Point International Raceway; Gidley will drive in the GT America Stock Car race and Senske will compete in the Russell/USAC Triple Crown Pro Series.
Gidley, 28, of Novato, is the current points leader and winner of three of the first five races in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, the premier steppingstone series to the CART/FedEx Championship. His usual ride is a 1,100-pound, open-wheel 'formula' car with a 4-cylinder, 240-horsepower Toyota engine, but this weekend hell be driving the #20 OilChangers Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a 2,900-pound 'stock car' with a 475 hp V-8 engine under the hood.
Gidley, who spent last weekend at Portland talking with CART teams about the 1999 season, drove the OilChangers car to a third-place finish at this event last year and won the GT America race at the second annual Reno Grand Prix. In pre-event practice for this weekends race, hes quickest by about half a second.
"My focus is on winning the Atlantic championship this year and moving up to CART next year," says Gidley. "But I'm like Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon in that I like to race as much as possible, and because of all the different kinds of cars I've driven in my career, it's easy for me to move back and forth between open- and closed-wheel cars. And I learn something every time I race, whether its a formula car or a stock car or a kart, so I look at a weekend like this as part of my overall education as a driver. Besides, it feels great to get in there a push and shove and swap a little paint once in a while."
Senske, 19, of Kennewick, Washington, is a rising star in the Star Formula Mazda Championship, driving a car sponsored by Lynx Racing and fielded by Kent Stacy's S3 Racing. While the car she'll be racing in the Russell/USAC Triple Crown Pro Series is virtually identical to what she usually drives, the format is different; drivers draw for which car they will drive from among a pool of cars, and the field is composed of 18 top drivers rather than the 40-50 drivers of widely varying skill levels common in the Mazda series.
Past winners include CART star Greg Moore (who is Lynx Racing graduate Patrick Carpentier's teammate on the Players/Forsythe team), and three-time SCCA Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendall.
"This is a great opportunity for me to get more racing experience and to race in front of a big crowd," says Senske. "It's going to feel really strange to be out there with only 18 other cars instead of 40 or 50 like I'm used to, but it'll be a chance to focus on racing with the front-runners without being interrupted so much by lapped traffic. Every race car, even two that are nearly identical, feel and behave very differently, so getting used to this new car will be a challenge, but challenges are what help you grow and learn. I really want to thank Lynx and the people at Russell Racing for giving me the opportunity."
The Russell/USAC Triple Crown Pro Series is comprised of three races, including the USAC Championship Race Weekend at Willow Springs Raceway on August 2 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at Sears Point on October 11. The series is limited to 18 entrants, each of whom pays $15,000 to run the series, or $5,000 for an individual race. Russell Racing providing the car, transportation, mechanics, fuel and tires. The race winner gets $2,000 and the series champion gets $5,000 in cash and a test day in a KOOL/Toyota Atlantic car courtesy of Yokohama Tire Corporation.
"Having Sara race in the Russell/USAC series is an opportunity for both her and Lynx Racing," says Lynx Racing team manager Steve Cameron. "The experience of adapting to a new car and a new situation will be good for her, and for us it's a way to build a closer relationship with a series that has produced some really good drivers. At Lynx, we look for future prospects in the ranks of karting and the U.S. F2000 series, and now we'll be keeping an eye on the Russell/USAC Silver Crown drivers as well. If one of them really stands out, we'll give them a test in either our F2000 or Atlantic car, whichever is more appropriate to their skill level."
Qualifying for Gidley and the GT America race is at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, with the race scheduled to take the green flag at approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. Senske will qualify her Russell/USAC car at 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon and race at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lynx Racing, now entering its ninth year of operation, is a uniquely successful driver development team owned by two women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty. The team is dedicated to seeking out young drivers with championship potential and helping them make the jump to the top levels of the sport.
Lynx has won the Atlantic championship the last two years in a row and both champions have gone on to CART teams. Patrick Carpentier won nine of 12 races in 1996 -- eight of them in a row from the pole -- and was the 1997 CART "Rookie of the Year" driving for the Bettenhausen/Alumax team. He is teamed with Greg Moore on the Player's/Forsythe team for 1998, and has scored two pole positions so far this season, both of them track records.
Alex Barron was Lynx Racings KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Champion for 1997, winnning five races, the "Rookie of the Year" award and the series championship. He is racing this year for Dan Gurney's All-American Racers as a teammate to P.J. Jones.
Memo Gidley won two Atlantic races last year, finished second in the championship and won the "Player's Challenge" for drivers scoring the most points in the Canadian rounds of the series. He won the opening race of the 1998 season, in the rain, at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and scored back-to-back wins on the ovals at Gateway and Milwaukee. His Lynx Racing teammate, rookie Buddy Rice, 22, of Phoenix, Arizona, was on the pole at Long Beach, his first-ever Atlantic race, and won from the pole at Nazareth.
For further information, please visit the team's web site at www.LynxRacing.com.