(SEBRING, Fla.) January 4, 2002 -Americans Craig Baltzer, Colin Flemming, and Charlie Kimball along with Canadian Ward Imrie each claimed a coveted Barber-CART Karting Scholarship that grants them a full season of racing in the 2002 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER. The four karters were chosen from a group of 16 after two days of close scrutiny by a panel of Skip Barber judges. As has become the norm in Barber-CART Scholarship runoffs, the competition was incredibly stiff forcing the panel to deliberate for well over an hour before selecting the four scholarship recipients.
Baltzer, 17, from Bettendorf, Iowa has been karting for nine years. He has 19 different karting championships to his name in WKA, IRK and KART competition.
"I'm looking forward to getting experience in a racecar. Right now that's the biggest thing," said Baltzer. "There's a lot that's different between driving a kart and a racecar. Off track though, I think I'm good at communicating what the kart is doing and finding a set-up and I think that process is fairly similar in a racecar."
Flemming, 17, from North Hills, Calif. has ten years of karting experience to his credit including four years in the WKA and three years of SKUSA shifter kart racing. A factory driver for Champ Car star Paul Tracy's karting team, Flemming claims three championships and the distinction of being the youngest national champion to gain expert status.
"I felt I had produced pretty well the past couple of days, but I still felt kind of sketchy. When I heard my name (announced) I was really excited," said Flemming. "I've competed in karting at the national level for a long time, but there is going to be a lot to learn, the racecar, new tracks, but I think I can adapt pretty quickly."
Kimball, 16, from Camarillo, Calif. is the youngest of the scholarship recipients. Yet he still holds 19 karting titles including seven IKF Grand National Championships in only six years of karting.
"I'm pretty happy with how it went overall though I was a little disappointed at how the first day went. I thought I didn't drive as well as I could have. But I went back to the hotel and thought about it, then came back this morning and really laid it down," claimed Kimball. "I'm looking forward to the huge competition which is absolutely more intense than any karting race of been in."
Imrie, 18, from Winnepeg, Canada has been racing karts since he was seven years old. His resume shows over 20 karting titles.
"I'm excited for sure about racing in the National Championship. I did one round last year and the level was just unreal. Everyone was just so fast and so close, it makes qualifying so crucial because it is so difficult to pass in the race," proclaimed Imrie.
The total value of the scholarships is over $160,000. The Formula Dodge National Championship takes place over 12 rounds at some of the top tracks in North America including Laguna Seca, Road America, and Daytona. The prize for the title winner is a full scholarship to compete in the 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series. Positions two through eight automatically qualify for the Barber-CART Big Scholarship Runoff, which has another seat in the Barber Dodge Pro Series at stake.
Past winners of the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship are newly signed Lynx Racing driver Michael Valiante, 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2000 British Formula Ford runner-up Patrick Long and current Formula Dodge National Championship runner-up A.J. Allmendinger.
The Barber-CART Karting Scholarship is the first rung on the $1.3 million Barber-CART Scholarship Ladder that culminates with the $255,000 Career Enhancement Award that goes to the Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion used to advance to the CART Toyota Atlantic Series.