The Snap-on Stars of Karting Series has a new home and presenting sponsor, as the Indy Racing League announced today its affiliation with Bryan Herta and Bobby Rahal's program to develop new talent for the upper reaches of open wheel ...
The Snap-on Stars of Karting Series has a new home and presenting sponsor, as the Indy Racing League announced today its affiliation with Bryan Herta and Bobby Rahal's program to develop new talent for the upper reaches of open wheel racing.
Unveiling the program with a Birel kart at Texas Motor Speedway with Herta, Rahal and Indy Racing League senior vice president of business affairs Ken Ungar on hand for the presentation, the League declared its intention to be part of this series, in operation since 2000, through the 2007 season.
"Driver development is essential for us," Ungar detailed. "It's important to identify future competitors and, for that reason the Indy Racing League has agreed to become presenting sponsor of the Snap-on Stars of Karting through the 2007 season.
"In recent years," Ungar said, "we've worked on a system to graduate drivers and this will help start a new generation toward IndyCar Series competition using Stars of Karting and USAC's Road to Indy as part of our driver development."
Rahal, owner of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race-winning car driven by former kart standout Buddy Rice called the announcement, "A big day for Stars of Karting, Bryan and myself. This is Bryan's baby. He started it 5- 6 years ago. You've got to have this type of intensity at the bottom rung of the ladder in order to graduate drivers to the top.
"Look at who raced karts in the past and where they are today," Rahal continued. "Guys like Buddy, Helio Castroneves, Bryan of course, Gil de Ferran, Michael Andretti. They all started in karts. It's part of the fabric of our society when drivers vie to become the next Ayrton Senna or de Ferran.
"The Indy Racing League gives Stars of Karting the gravity it needs to bring drivers up to speed. Once they've done this they can compete against anybody. Karting works in the United States now and, with the IRL behind this program it can work even better," Rahal declared.
Herta, driver of the #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car from the Andretti Green Racing stables thinks the affiliation will be "great for our series and for grass-roots racing in general. It adds credence to what we do. We'd like to be a part of IRL weekends in the future and we're glad to be part of the Indy Racing League family.
"Just look at some of the drivers who have gone through our Snap-on Stars of Karting program. There are guys like A.J. Allmendinger (2002 Barber Dodge, 2003 Toyota Atlantic champion), Scott Speed (2004 Formula Renault titleholder) and Colin Fleming. They came through the program and now they are all making their marks in cars."
Michael Giessen, 17, of Deer Park, NY was on hand to help unveil the Stars of Karting program. This season in the Snap-on ICA Class Eastern Division championship, Giessen took the title with five wins in eight races and one second-place finish. He's been racing since the age of ten and his goal is to compete successfully on a professional level.
Giessen received a Skip Barber National Championship Shoot-out invitation for 2004, one of only 14 Stars/ competitors invited to compete of 16 total invitees. The Shoot-out gives away more than $100,000 in scholarships following a two-day competition at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next January.
The Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by the Indy Racing League is an eight-race championship with Eastern and Western divisions. Each division supports six different karting classes: ICC (125cc shifter), ICA (100cc direct drive), 80cc Junior (80cc shifter), JICA (100cc clutch), EasyKart (125cc clutch) and Cadet (80cc clutch).
Snap-on Stars of Karting is based at the Hilliard, OH headquarters of Rahal Letterman Racing and is sanctioned by the World Karting Association (WKA). The series is owned and operated by Bobby Rahal, Bryan Herta and veteran karting promoter Paul Zalud.
As part of the affiliation, all competitors, officials, each kart and vehicle will carry the IRL brand logo. In addition, the Indy Racing League gains exclusive access to Stars' competitors, teams, fans and the karting community through specialized marketing programs that will be announced at a later date.
The first event held under the Indy Racing League presentation banner takes place November 12-14 on a temporary circuit at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. It will be the 2004 season finale for the Snap-on Stars of Karting Presented by the Indy Racing League National Championships. A 2005 schedule will be released soon.