FONTANA, Calif. (October 29, 2000) - Continuing to build on its commitment to helping talented American drivers progress toward its FedEx Championship Series, Championship Auto Racing Teams announced today its continuing support for the Team USA Scholarship program, which is now in its 11th season.
CART, which has supported the Team USA program since 1996, again contributed $10,000 to the Scholarship, which gives two young American drivers the opportunity to participate in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England against some of the best young racing talent in the world.
The announcement was made by interim CART President and CEO, Bobby Rahal.
"Since 1990, the Team USA Scholarship has identified some of the best young driving talent the United States has to offer," Rahal said. "Over the years, the drivers who have won this scholarship have gone on to accomplish great things in various levels of motorsport. I'm pleased to announce that CART is continuing its involvement in the Team USA Scholarship, and I'm sure that the 2000 scholarship winners will continue the tradition of excellence that has been established. I'm looking forward to watching these talented young drivers in their efforts to move up the ladder to the FedEx Championship Series."
Six drivers were chosen to participate in a shootout at England's Silverstone circuit on Friday in Audi turbo-powered Van Diemen chassis. The drivers were chosen by the results they posted in various racing series this year, in addition to their personalities.
The six finalists for the Scholarship were Tom Dyer, 24, of San Rafael, Calif., who won this year's ACC class for year-old cars in the U.S. F2000 National Championship; Phil Giebler, 21, of Oxnard, Calif., who finished second in the French Formula 3 Championship Promotion class for year-old cars; Joey Hand, 21, of Sacramento, Calif., who won the 1999 STAR Formula Mazda series; Ryan Hunter-Reay, 19, of Boca Raton, Fla., who was Rookie of the Year in the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series and finished fifth in the overall championship; Andy Lally, 25, of Northport, N.Y., who raced in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2000; and Bryan Sellers, 18, of Centerville, Ohio, who finished second in the 2000 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship.
After a rainy, but eventful, day of testing in Silverstone, Giebler and Hand were chosen as the winners of the 2000 Team USA Scholarship and will represent Team USA in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series. These two drivers join 1996 FedEx Championship Series Champion, Jimmy Vasser; two-time Champ Car race winner, Bryan Herta; Champ Car rising star, Memo Gidley; 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion, Buddy Rice; and Dayton Indy Lights Championship talents, Tony Renna and Jeff Simmons.
"The competition is a lot different than I thought, it was really tough," said Giebler. "It was tough to adapt with the conditions, it rained the whole time, and with the turbo it was really hard to put the power down. But when it counted, I was able to do it. It couldn't come at a better time, because I'm looking for sponsorship. I'm not sure what I'm doing for next year, but having European experience definitely helps. Everyone in CART knows about the Team USA Scholarship, so it opens a lot of doors. I'm excited to race in the Formula Palmer Audi Series, and it's a good step towards accomplishing my dream of getting to Champ Cars."
"I was in this program last year, but I had an accident and I wasn't able to move on," Hand said. "But it was a good experience last year, and when I came back this year I was much more relaxed and I came here ready to win. It's a great experience. It really means a lot for our American drivers. The Formula Palmer people have been really great and have helped us a lot. It's a great deal for anybody who wants to get into a CART Champ Car."
CART joins Valvoline, Tasman Motorsports Group (Steve and Christine Horne), Mitel Semiconductor, Mercedes-Benz of North America, PacWest Racing Group, Klein Tools, Skip Barber Racing School, and RACER and Champ Car magazines. The Team USA program has been overseen since its inception by Champ Car Editor and ESPN International/Eurosport television commentator, Jeremy Shaw.