Wilson Tests Infiniti Pro Series Car With Sam Schmidt
Former Zetec and Karting Star Has Stellar Run in Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky -- (Oct. 25, 2004) -- As part of his career progression, Bobby Wilson of Dousman, Wisc., put in 100 miles of testing in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series (MIPS) car for the championship winning team Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Wilson, who is considered to be one of the brightest bleeps on the talent radar, has his sights on the Indy Racing League's Infiniti Pro Series for 2005 and got his first feel of both oval track driving and the 450hp Infiniti powered Dallara chassis at Kentucky Speedway's 1.5 mile tri-oval in Sparta last Friday. Team Manager, Michael Crawford, was impressed with Wilson and felt he performed exceptionally well.
Wilson, 23, is hot off two stellar seasons earning championship titles in the 2004 Cooper Tires FF2000 Zetec series and the 2003 Stars of Tomorrow karting championship. He's been spotted at the last two IRL events out shopping for options he hopes will take him into IndyCar racing over the next few years. Driving Thiago Medeiros' #11 championship winning car, Wilson put in 67 impressive laps posting his best lap time at 28.14, just over 189 mph and quick enough to place him on the front row of the Kentucky 100 held last August.
"We've tested 35 people over the past two years and last Friday was the best collective group of talent we've had; it was stellar," said Crawford. "Bobby's got the entire package of what we're looking for in a driver. He's exceptionally talented with an exceptional personality. He's willing to listen, has a desire to learn, shows enthusiasm and was a pleasure to work with," Crawford said. Medeiros is expected to move to the IndyCar series leaving a vacant seat on the two- car team based in Indianapolis, Ind. They are currently working to re-sign Travis Gregg who debuted for the team last August and looking for a compatible teammate. "Bobby was a pleasure to work with and would fit in well," said Crawford.
"I had a blast and the car is pretty quick" said Wilson. "The team is first rate and I enjoyed working with Michael [Crawford] and Tim Neff [team engineer] and getting to know the car. Other than getting used to turning in at a certain point, Friday's test was pretty easy. I know it gets harder from there when you start setting up the car to its on-the-edge-max and I'm pumped to go to the next level. It will be pretty exciting after you add in a mix of other cars and the aerodynamic factors involved. There's a rhythm that makes it a lot of fun to drive," added Wilson.
The test was also monitored by Butch Meyer, technical director for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and has provided Wilson the essential qualifications and eligibility for his MIPS licensing. Other drivers who also tested with the team were one of Wilson's karting peers, Jason Bowles of Las Vegas, Nev., Brazilian Jaime Camara and James McCabe.
Wilson's next step will be to secure a season long ride with the team who has earned six wins and nine pole positions last season. While all drivers showed talent, the determining factor will be who wins the chase in obtaining sponsorship dollars. Wilson now knows what banner he'd like to contend with in 2005 and is flipping his Rolodex in high speed as he actively pursues opportunities at this time. "The structure for 2005 will greatly enhance the marketability of the series and provide additional benefits for sponsors," Wilson said.
The recent announcement by the IRL of the 2005 MIPS schedule has received much enthusiasm by teams, drivers and fans of the series and includes the addition of three road courses and one street race in 2005. Among the course venues that will add right turns to the series are the US Formula 1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis, Ind., Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Watkins Glen International in New York and a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Other top caliber events include a second stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the famed 2.5 mile oval in conjunction with the Indy 500, California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Texas Motor Speedway and seven other dates all held with the IndyCar series tour. All races will once again be televised by ESPN.
Although many MIPS teams would like to have the ability to progress drivers through the ranks based solely on talent, the financial ability to do so is just not there yet. Unfortunately, for most drivers on the circuit, it takes assistance of sponsorship and private partnerships that help fund a driver's rise through the ranks. Unlike many other sports, motor racing differs making the road even more difficult for an aspiring driver. Drivers who have made it through the ranks of karting and into the upper echelon of IndyCar competition include Buddy Rice, Helio Castroneves, Gil De Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr., only to name a few.
Bobby Wilson Fast Facts
Wilson is from Dousman, Wisc., and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minn., working as a driver coach and tuner for Stockholm Karting Center. He continues to drive in select karting events for the First Kart North America Team and will contest in the SuperNationals (Oct. 28-30) and Stars of Karting season finale in Orlando (Nov 12-14).
He has been racing for over 11 years starting in karts and progressing into FF2000 competition.
Wilson is the Cooper Tires Zetec series champion for 2004, the 2003 Stars of Tomorrow karting series champion and the 2000 SuperKarts! USA (SKUSA) ProMoto Tour champion. Other prestigious wins include the World Finals, the Rock Island Grand Prix and the Grand Prix of Windsor. He was also a finalist in the Red Bull Drivers Search in 2002 and advanced to test at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.
Wilson was named Shifter Kart Illustrated's Driver of the Year and as Racer Magazine's Karter of the year in 2003. In 2004, he was awarded with a $25,000 scholarship by the Jim Trueman family to assist in advancing his career and earned a Toyota Atlantic test with Team Rahal.