LOCAL KID MAKES GOOD..... FAST * Local go-kart racer Michael McDowell has made it to auto racing's big leagues, and next weekend he returns home to race his 500 horsepower, 190 mph prototype sports car at Phoenix International Raceway in the ...
LOCAL KID MAKES GOOD..... FAST
* Local go-kart racer Michael McDowell has made it to auto racing's big leagues, and next weekend he returns home to race his 500 horsepower, 190 mph prototype sports car at Phoenix International Raceway in the Phoenix 250 Grand American Rolex Series race September 8 -- 10.
* This is the home track race for 20 year-old Phoenix native Michael McDowell, who rose through the ranks from the local go-kart club to the top levels of auto racing as co-driver with Champ Car veteran Memo Gidley of the Finlay Motorsports #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation Daytona Prototype.
* McDowell's story is the opposite of the usual 'rich kid goes racing' tale'; with an unquenchable desire to race but no family money, he wrote his first sponsor proposal at age 12. He worked for free at karting shops in exchange for a chance to race and became an instructor at the famed Bondurant Racing School in Phoenix the day he turned 16.
* It was at the Bondurant School that McDowell had Rob Finlay as a student and convinced him to start a racing team. McDowell now co-drives with Finlay in the #60 Commercial Defeasance / Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation BMW M3 Grand Am Cup car, and with Champ Car veteran Memo Gidley in the team's Daytona Prototype.
* Michael McDowell won the stepping-stone Star Formula Mazda championship in 2004 with a record 8 wins in 10 races, including a victory at PIR. Gidley ran his first professional race at PIR, a Shelby Can-Am event, qualifying on the pole and finishing 2nd. He won the Formula Ford 2000 race at PIR in 1995.
* In the Daytona Prototype, McDowell and Gidley have teamed to score three consecutive 4th-place finishes, lead six of the last seven races and score the team's first podium finish -- 2nd place -- four weeks ago. The Finlay team is currently 5th in the 2005 Rolex Series championship battle, and is a favorite to win the PIR event.
If how hard you worked to get there is any indication of the level of success you will eventually achieve, then Finlay Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley are destined for great things.
They'll be demonstrating their unique pairing of determination and skill this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway as co-drivers of the Finlay Motorsports #19 Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation/Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered Riley in the Grand American Sports Car Series' Phoenix 250, a 166-lap Saturday-night endurance race featuring twenty of the exotic, 500-horsepower, 190 mph Rolex Series prototype sports cars.
McDowell, a Phoenix native, knew when he was young that racing was what he wanted. Lacking any family money to fund his passion, he wrote his first sponsorship proposal at age 12, worked for free for any local go-kart shop that would let him race their karts, and became an instructor at the famed Bob Bondurant Racing School at age 16. He graduated from high school via a home-correspondence course because he was off racing in Europe, and won his first major open-wheel racing championship at age 19.
Gidley was raised on a commercial fishing boat off the coast of Northern California, and grew up racing bicycles, motocross and karts. He switched to cars when a vagrant breeze blew a racing school flier literally under his foot one day. Like McDowell, his family had no money, so Gidley started out working in the mechanic's training program for free at a racing school in exchange for the chance to race on weekends. Winning that school championship helped him take the next step, and his talent and dedication was such that a short six years later he made his first start as a driver in the Champ Car World Series.
Both drivers have raced and won at PIR over the years. McDowell's victory here last year on the oval in the Star Formula Mazda race helped clinch his record-breaking championship run of eight victories in ten races. Gidley ran his first professional race at PIR in 1993, qualifying on the pole and finishing second in a Shelby Can-Am event, driving a car prepared by Steve Cameron, now the Team Manager at Finlay Motorsports. He also won the Formula Ford 2000 event at PIR in 1995, going on to take both the Rookie of the Year award and the FF2000 oval track championship.
The combined talents of this dynamic duo has already made the Finlay Motorsports team the talk of an otherwise well-ordered Grand American paddock. A first-year team in an ultra-competitive, top-tier series like Grand American is expected to spend their first season learning 'the ropes' while puttering around in mid-field.
Instead, the Finlay team has scored four 4th-place finishes, led six of the last seven races and scored the team's first podium finish on July 31 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Finlay Motorsports team is currently in 5th place in the 2005 Grand American Rolex Series championship, and is a favorite to score the team's first victory this weekend at PIR.
On-track activities begin with open testing for both the Rolex Series and Grand Am Cup cars on Thursday, September 8. The #60 Commercial Defeasance/Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation BMW M3 Grand Am Cup car co-driven by McDowell and Rob Finlay will qualify from 6:20 pm to 6:35 pm Friday evening. The #19 Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation/Commercial Defeasance Daytona Prototype co-driven by McDowell and Gidley will qualify immediately after, from 6:45 pm to 7:00 pm.
The 200-mile/133-lap/2-hour Grand Am Cup GS race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:00 pm Saturday, September 10. The Phoenix 250 for Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes, a 250-mile/166-lap/2 0x00be-hour event, will start at 7:00 pm. The Rolex Series event will be broadcast tape-delayed on the SPEED Network at 4:00 pm ET on Sunday, Sept. 11.
The Phoenix 250 is round 11 of the 14-race 2005 Grand American Rolex Series. The next event on the schedule is the Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, September 24.