Venezuelan racer Milka Duno became the Indy Racing League's third active female driver with her announcement Friday to join SAMAX Motorsport and compete in the 2007 IndyCar Series on a limited schedule this season. She'll contest ten races, including the Indianapolis 500 in May, as well as selected other venues as the year unfolds.
Milka Duno joins Dreyer & Reinbold's Sarah Fisher and Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick as the trio of women drivers who will take the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway. The three-woman lineup marks the first time in racing history the this many women have competed in a single professional open-wheel event.
"It's always been a dream for me and now it's coming true," Duno said of her ride in IndyCar. She made the announcement in a teleconference at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the Indy Car Series kicks offs its 2007 season on Saturday night.
Duno's eager to show she belongs among the boys, and girls, of the IRL. "Women engage in every activity. They are engineers; they're in medicine, economics, even Presidents. What's important is not who you are, but how able you are to do the job."
The announcement followed a previous deal in the making to a possible drive with Cahill Racing earlier this year which failed to materialize for Duno. She described the withdrawal of interest as simply one of "issues of chemistry".
With familiar faces from Duno's sportscar racing career involved with the SAMAX team, she stands to learn oval open-wheel racing under watchful eyes that know her strengths and weaknesses. "We have to work very hard," she said. "We are so late in getting started. It's completely new to me and to the team."
Duno plans to continue her sportscar racing career, as long as it doesn't conflict with her IndyCar plans. She's planning to compete at Kansas Speedway in April and Texas Speedway next summer, as well as at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. An announcement of her other race dates will be coming soon.
"With ten races we'll be able to learn the different race tracks this year," commented the thirty-four year old Duno, who is by education and training a Naval Engineer with four master's degrees - in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Maritime Business and Marine Biology.
She began her racing career in Venezuelan club racing in 1996-1997, finishing 2nd in the Venezuelan GT Championship. Duno became the only female driver running a regular schedule in the 2001 American Le Mans Series where she and her co-driver won four races, including Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, racing in the LMP 675 class.
The following year saw her co-pilot a Dodge Viper in the Rolex 24 Hours of Dayton, finishing 6th in class. She also competed in the most famous sportscar race in the world: Le Mans 24 Hours in France.
In 2004 and 2005 Duno raced in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series and in the 2004 American Le Mans Series Twelve Hours of Sebring and a return to Petit Le Mans, the latter of which she won for the second time in the 675 class.
She and Andy Wallace also won the Rolex Series' Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February of 2004, which made her the first woman in history to win overall in a sportscar race in North America.
During the 2005 season she recorded her third career Rolex Series win at Mont-Tremblant, Canada. Duno remains with the SAMAX team racing with co-driver Patrick Carpentier and her personal sponsor CITGO in the No. 11 Daytona Pontiac Riley Prototype.
In all she has earned three overall wins, six podium appearances, nine top-five finishes and twenty top-ten finishes.