Three teens to carry AWR's colors in FSCCA in 2004
FAIRFIELD, N.J., Jan. 29 - Many high school students just hope for the keys to Dad's car on Saturday night.
Dan Abbale, Jonathan Klein and Chris Meredith already have some pretty impressive cars, although they just seat one and their sole purpose is to go fast.
These teens have a different outlook about their cars too, since they're hoping to achieve a championship with them on their way to careers as professional race car drivers, instead of just looking to have a night on the town.
Abbale, the senior member of the squad at the ripe age of 17, and Klein and Meredith, who were born just nine days apart 16 years ago, will compete in Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) entries this year in the Formula SCCA (FSCCA) series, which is part of the Cooper Tires Championship Series.
The team, based in Fairfield, N.J. and North Versailles, Pa., is one of the most successful formula-car prep shops in North America. Its co-owners, Dan Andersen and John Walko, are always on the lookout for rising stars, and they were impressed with what these three high school students have accomplished already in the sport.
Abbale, of Northport, N.Y., has numerous local and regional karting championships on his resume, including the Rotax Max regional championship and a World Karting Association (WKA) regional title. After that he competed successfully at the national level in karting, posting several top-five finishes. He hopes to transfer what he learned racing karts into the FSCCA series this year.
"This year I expect to learn a lot about car set-up," he said. "Coming from karts, a lot of things will be different. I want to learn more about shocks, ride height and the like.
"I have struggled a little to get started with cars, but I hope to show them that I can go fast," he added. "I chose to run with Andersen Walko this year because I think they have a great program. Their record is great; their drivers run up front. It's racing done right, at very affordable prices."
The newest member of the Andersen Walko squad is Klein, of Long Grove, Ill., who finished third in the Formula Dodge U.S. Championship Run-offs last year and came in sixth in the Formula Dodge Midwest championship with five victories, four second-place finishes and nine podium finishes.
"After doing a two-day test with Andersen Walko Racing at Roebling Road in Georgia in late November, I immediately felt part of the team," Klein said. "I loved working with John, Eric and the other crew members present at the test. I know that AWR has proven, excellent results. I definitely feel that we're going to be a major force to be reckoned with in the 2004 pro series, and I'm very excited to be working with such great people."
Like Abbale, Klein also began his racing career with karts, as did another driver he'll compete with and against in FSCCA this year: fellow teammate Chris Meredith of Potomac, Md.
Meredith has over 40 feature victories in the WKA as well as 70 podium finishes and several championships to his credit. He decided to focus on formula cars last summer, and successfully completed the Bertil Roos School and Rookie Camp and well as tested a FSCCA car to hone his skills for what he'll face this year.
"My transition from karts to cars has been good," Meredith said. "I did well in the Bertil Roos School and Camp, and testing has gone well. I think I'll have a pretty good chance of going for the title this year.
"I chose AWR because of their success in formula car racing and because I think I have the greatest chance of progressing in the series with Andersen Walko," Meredith continued. "They have a good staff of engineers and mechanics; they make it easier."
Abbale and Meredith own their own Van Diemens, which are in the process of being prepped for the season in AWR's shop in western Pennsylvania. The team owns Klein's Van Diemen. All of the cars in the series use Mazda engines.
Earlier this month AWR announced that Andrew Prendeville and Adam Pecorari will campaign AWR entries for the entire FF2000 Zetec season, with Mike Andersen and Doug Prendeville competing in additional AWR entries in selected events in that series this year.
AWR will announce its drivers for SCCA national events soon.
AWR was formed in November 2002 with the merger of two-time SCCA national champions Andersen/Kish Racing and John Walko Racing. The team is led by Dan Andersen, co-owner and team president, and John Walko, co-owner, team manager and chief engineer.
Dan Andersen, one of the most influential men in the junior open-wheel formula car ranks in North America for over a decade, organized the U.S. Formula 2000 national championship series with partner Mike Foschi in the early nineties and ran it successfully through 2001. He has also owned and operated his own successful race team with his son for many years.
Walko is recognized as one of top engineers in Formula Ford, Formula Continental and Formula Ford 2000 racing today, with multiple SCCA national championships and runner-up finishes. He was chosen as "Engineer of the Year" for 2003 in the FF2000 Zetec series. He also ran the factory Carbir team in the U.S. F2000 series.