PHOENIX, AZ. . . Team Rahal in conjunction with Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the North American Karting Association (NAKA) provided the four winners from the 2001 Stars of Tomorrow competition with the opportunity yesterday to test in one of the team's Ford-Cosworth/Lola Champ Cars. The test took place at Firebird International Raceway under the watchful eye of Mark Johnson, Team Rahal Director of Operations, and under the tutelage of Buddy Rice, 2000 Toyota Atlantic Champion. Each of the four Stars of Tomorrow turned 20 laps during the test, which is the latest example of Team Rahal's continued commitment to helping young aspiring drivers in the early stages of their careers.
"I remember how frustrating it was when I was first starting out," said Team Rahal owner and three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal. "This is my way of giving back to this great sport and to the people like Jim Trueman who were so good to me. Team Rahal has been supportive of a number of young drivers and we have tried to take the time to help them. We can't always provide a test or actually run them in a race like we did with Casey Mears in 2000 at Fontana, but answering e-mails and letters and doing what we can to support a great program like Stars of Tomorrow will only help these kids and the sport of in the future."
The four winners of the 2001 Stars of Tomorrow were Scott Speed of Manteca, CA, Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas, NV, Colin Fleming of North Hills, CA, and Chris Carmody of Valencia, CA. The test provided not only an opportunity to drive the Champ Car but a chance for each of the drivers to get an introduction and to gain valuable insight into the at track operations of a Champ Car team. "These kids showed that they are quick learners and they did a great job under what has to be some difficult circumstances," said Mark Johnson Team Rahal Director of Operations. "Not only is this their first time in a car with this kind of power, but to have several of your peers standing there watching you has to make for a nerve wracking experience. We tried to ease each of them into the experience and give them a chance to absorb how the car responds in different situations. Having Buddy here to answer their questions and provide some feedback was a big help. By the end of the day they were starting to really show progress in their lap times."
The Stars of Tomorrow series, founded last year by Champ Car veteran driver Bryan Herta and Hollis Brown, Herta's partner in the Las Vegas Karting Center and long-time supporter, is now recognized as the starting point in the CART Ladder System to Champ Car competition.
Through a recently announced partnership between CART and the North American Karting Association (NAKA), the CART Stars of Tomorrow program will continue to grow with an expanded racing series next season. Six to eight NAKA-sanctioned races will be held during CART FedEx Championship Series event weekends, and a National Karting Championship made up of regional NAKA events will culminate for the season finale at the Las Vegas Karting Center in November of 2002.
Team Rahal is a franchise member of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Headquartered in Hilliard, Ohio, the team owned by three-time CART Champion Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, currently fields a Championship Car for 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser in the CART FedEx Championship Series and an entry in the Indianapolis 500. The 65-member team enjoys primary sponsorship from the Shell Oil Company in CART and the Miller Brewing Company for the Indy 500.