Indy Pro Series team owner Steve Eppard has had his eye on karting standout Kyle Wiegand for more than a year.
Eppard first spotted the 21-year-old Greenwood, Ind. native at the New Castle, Ind., go-kart facility owned by former IndyCar Series competitor Mark Dismore last August. Their paths crossed again in early September at the Rock Island Grand Prix in Quad Cities, Iowa.
"The Rock Island Grand Prix has been around for 14 years and is one of the top karting events in the country," said Eppard, who grew up in the area. "Not only do a lot of superstars of karting compete in the event, but so do a lot of guys who are now racing cars."
Eppard offered up a test in his Indy Pro Series car to the overall winner of the event. Wiegand, a competitor in the Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by the IndyCar Series, earned the honor with a second-place finish in one event and a drive from last to first in the other.
On Sept. 24, Eppard finally got to put Wiegand behind the wheel of a 420-horsepower Indy Pro Series car during a private test.
"Kyle has been very impressive," Eppard said. "It started at the shop last week. After we finished the seat fitting, I left for a while to take care of some business. I came back and Kyle was still sitting there in the car. He told me was getting comfortable with it, visualizing driving it. He's a very focused and determined individual."
Wiegand's test was a success. In just his second stint, he shaved more than 3 seconds off his lap time and was running as quick as more experienced drivers.
"This car is real smooth, a lot more power," said Wiegand, whose only experience racing cars came in a handful of Skip Barber races and some tests in a Renault Formula 2000 car. "It's got more downforce. I'm just trying to get used to it. It's a lot to take in at once.
"This is my favorite form of sports. I love racing open-wheel stuff, but I've just never really had the chance, so it's really cool to be able to get to do this."
Both Eppard and Wiegand hope the successful test at the beginning of the offseason are a precursor to a successful relationship, culminating in victories in the Indy Pro Series.
-credit: stars of karting