Cunningham Begins Izod Indycar Championship Journey This Weekend
There will be a second New Zealand driver on the grid at the Firestone Twin 275s IZOD IndyCar Series meeting at Fort Worth in Texas this weekend as Wade Cunningham finally gets his opportunity to step up from the Firestone Indy Lights feeder series.
Cunningham, now 26, has been the dominant figure in the Firestone Indy Lights Series since winning it on debut in 2005. But though he earned a test with Andretti-Green Racing in 2007 on the strength of his form in the feeder class, only now has he been able to put the necessary team/funding package together to contemplate a move to ‘the main game.’
That move is with the team he has been working with for the past two seasons, Indianapolis-based Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The team will run Cunningham at three rounds of the IZOD IndyCar Series this season; this weekend at the Firestone Twin 275 double-header meeting at the Texas Motor Speedway, then at the Kentucky Indy 300 and season finale meeting at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October.
This weekend's meeting will see two quick-fire 114-lap (275 mile) races on Saturday, the first starting at 7.45pm local time, the second at 9.45pm.
Up until now the only Kiwi driver to have made it to the IZOD IndyCar Series is former series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon.
Cunningham makes it two and has put the campaign together with the Indianapolis-based Sam Schmidt Motorsport and sponsors Creatherm, which manufactures energy saving radiant heated floor panels, Mobile Drill International, a leader in the drilling industry since 1947, and Zephyr Technology, a company which specializes in real-time physiological and biomechanical monitoring.
Despite running only limited campaigns in the United States for the past three years Cunningham has one of the best track records of any contemporary New Zealand driver - not just in the United States either.
After success on kart tracks here and in Australia he went on to win the Asia-Pacific Karting championship in Japan in 2001 and the World Karting Championship in Italy in 2003 before moving to the United States to race cars.
There he found immediate success in the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec 2000 series, claiming pole position on debut at Sebring and going on to finish fifth in the US championship in 2004.
On the strength of that he moved to the Firestone Indy Lights championship where he was again immediately competitive, taking the 2005 title in his debut year.
He returned the next year to defend that title only to be sidelined by the need for an emergency appendectomy on the eve of one of the key double-header (double points) rounds, eventually finishing third overall.
He repeated that result in 2007 before sitting out 2008 then returning to finish fourth in 2009.
Along the way he established a new record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the Freedom 100, the Firestone Indy Lights series support race there, a record three times, first in 2006 then again in 2009 and 2010.
He has also amassed an impressive set of Indy Lights category statistics including most career races led (25), most career laps led (796), most career pole positions (10) and most career total points (1496).
-source: wade cunningham PR