IRL Road to Indy Summmit report

Drivers and teams from the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship visited IMS this week as part of the inaugural Road to Indy Summit. The Road to Indy is the development ladder ...

Drivers and teams from the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship visited IMS this week as part of the inaugural Road to Indy Summit. The Road to Indy is the development ladder system of the Indy Racing League.

The Road to Indy Summit, a three-day, first-of-its-kind instructional meeting for drivers who someday hope to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series, brings together drivers from the three ladder series under the Road to Indy umbrella - the USF2000 National Championship, Star Mazda Championship, and Firestone Indy Lights.

The purpose of the summit is to teach young drivers the ins and outs of the open-wheel racing business, with everything from pace car rides around the Speedway with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and two-time Indy winner Al Unser Jr. to fitness tips from PitFit's Jim Leo to training in public relations and marketing.

Quotes from selected drivers attending the summit:

JAVIER BARRALES (USF2000 driver, Fuerza Chile Motorsports): "This is my first time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track is amazing. It is so big."

(About Road to Indy Summit): "The Road to Indy Summit is great. I think the Museum was the best so far, but I also liked doing the laps with Rick Mears and his tips. The access they gave us at the Summit has been amazing. There is nothing like this program anywhere else in the world!"

JOSH FIELDING (USF2000 driver, Cape Motorport with Wayne Taylor Racing): "I think the best part of the Road to Indy Summit so far is to be able to see things behind the scenes and to be able to talk to the drivers. I got to see what was happening on pit lane. I've never even been to a big track like this before, so it was all new to me. I got to talk to Ryan Briscoe and Will Power. They went over some maneuvers on ovals with me and gave me some information that might help me at O'Reilly Raceway Park. I thought the autograph session was cool, too, because it gave me a look at what can be in the future for me. It helped me feel more comfortable here. This whole Summit has been a great help with my people-building skills."

SAGE KARAM (USF2000 driver, Andretti Autosport): "The tour of the track with Rick Mears was really cool. We did a slow lap and looked at all the details. He gave me some pointers. He said to always be really smooth with my hands. Hopefully, I can take his advice and win the Indy 500 someday."

(About the Road to Indy program): "It's great for the USF2000 series to be on the Road to Indy program. Just to give kids an opportunity to see the tracks we hope to race on someday ahead of time is definitely an attention-grabber."

PATRICK MCKENNA (USF2000 driver, Cape Motorport with Wayne Taylor Racing): "Getting to be interviewed on the Coke Stage yesterday was amazing, and so was getting to do a lap with Rick Mears today. The spotters' seminar was pretty good, too. I liked being about to be part of the autograph session, too. I've enjoyed the whole thing. Just to be here is fantastic. I've never been involved in anything that's given me such exposure, and I've met a lot of good people. You don't get a chance to do this in any other series anywhere else; it's fabulous."

MARTIN SCUNCIO (USF2000 driver, Fuerza Chile Motorsports): "I think the best thing about the Road to Indy program is that there are clear steps now. First, you do USF2000, then you do Star Mazda, then you do Firestone Indy Lights, then you can become an IZOD IndyCar driver. With the Road to Indy program, if you work hard on it, the contacts will come. The team owners will look at you if you're part of the Road to Indy program."

(What was the best part of the Summit): "Going to the Museum today was fantastic. I got to see Juan Manuel Fangio's car. He's my idol."

ZACH VEACH (USF2000 driver, Andretti Autosport): "One of the coolest things we did today was the track ride with Rick Mears. He described a few tips for us to remember. He said it's important to be smooth, and he told us how to do corrections. I feel very fortunate to be part of the USF2000 series and the Road to Indy program. We're really being groomed to be an IZOD IndyCar Series driver. The Road to Indy program is one of a kind, and it's really helping us out."

MIKAEL GRENIER (Star Mazda driver, Andersen Racing): "The Museum was quite impressive. In some of those old race cars, the seats looked like a sofa! And I couldn't believe the cloth helmets. The tour of the track was cool. Rick Mears showed us some stuff that you could really see at the slow speed we were going. Everything he said really made sense. The oval here is much bigger than I thought it was from just seeing it on TV. When you compare what we're doing at ORP to what they're doing here, it's crazy!"

TRISTAN VAUTIER (Star Mazda driver, Andersen Racing): "I met some interesting people that I wouldn't have met otherwise without the Road to Indy Summit. I met [team owners] Sam Schmidt and Eric Bachelart; the new head of the Indy Racing League, Randy Bernard, and Rick Mears showed us the track. I saw for myself how huge it is. It's good to meet as many people as you can here. Then when you see them again, you'll talk a bit more, and before you know it you will know them and they'll know you. It's an important side of the job. It's really important to be quick too, but all of this is very helpful."

***

Officials from the three series that comprise the Road to Indy program - Firestone Indy Lights, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship -discussed the inaugural Road to Indy Summit today at IMS. The Road to Indy is the development ladder system of the Indy Racing League.

The Road to Indy Summit, a three-day, first-of-its-kind instructional meeting for drivers who someday hope to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series, brings together drivers from the three ladder series.

GARY RODRIGUES (Owner/CEO, Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear): "There's a temptation for me to say, 'Welcome to my dream,' because we've been working for 20 years to get to where we are now and that is to be recognized as a part of the ladder to a career in Indy car. The Road to Indy Summit has been a success that's beyond my imagination. To let our young drivers have exposure to people like Rick Mears, Randy Bernard, Tony George Jr. and Roger Bailey is just a dream come true. It's a privilege for our drivers. These kids are like sponges, and they're absorbing all the information they can. They are as serious as a heart attack when it comes to learning about the job to be done in the car as well as out of the car. It's a major step forward."

DAN ANDERSEN (Founder and co-owner, Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship): "The Road to Indy ladder is a long time coming. There needs to be a clear path to the big series, and there is now. There are a lot of good things that have happened already, and this summit is one of them. It's fantastic. These drivers have never seen anything like this, and all I'm getting from them is positive feedback. F2000 is delighted to be a part of it."

TONY GEORGE JR. (Manager, business development, Firestone Indy Lights): "It's gone really well. I can't believe that it was only six months ago that we announced this idea. Yesterday, we had a Museum tour with Donald Davidson, a track tour and spotter lecture with Rick Mears, and we had the new media presentation this morning. I think we've set the stage, and we've set a standard for what we're trying to do. Hopefully, in the next year and the years to come, we'll be able to improve on it."

ROGER BAILEY (Executive director, Firestone Indy Lights): "It's extremely important. We've put together something that is of benefit to anyone right down into karting. I don't think we can do enough of this sort of thing. The programs that we've had at this summit have been fantastic. It's the first of many summits, and everyone in the sport is going to benefit from it. This is going to be something that is not only vital to the Road to Indy but also to the success of open-wheel racing. It's going to benefit the world of racing."

-source: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS , PRO-MAZDA , USF2000