D'Agostino, Gelinas, Jaskol, and Jurca take Barber-CART Karting Scholarships.
(Lakeville, CT) Joe D'Agostino, Phillippe Gelinas, Matt Jaskol, and David Jurca were selected as winners today as recipients of the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship at Sebring International Raceway from a field of sixteen karters. Each winner will receive a sponsored ride in the Formula Dodge National Championship Series presented by RACER magazine, the Official National Amateur Championship of CART, as well as additional training from the Skip Barber Racing School, a package worth nearly $45,000.
The winners were selected after two days of running in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge R/T, the Michelin-shod racer which is the same car utilized in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship. The racers, all of whom had participated in a Skip Barber Three Day Racing School in preparation for the event, had to cope not only with their competition, but also with the changing track layouts that the judging panel utilized to test the racers speed and adaptability. The karters ran several sessions on both days of the event, and benefited from expert feedback from the Skip Barber coaching staff on hand for the event, which included Kelly Collins, Bryan Sellers, and Terry Earwood.
The entire field demonstrated clearly how well karting can prepare racers for stepping into actual race cars and performing well, as the entire group grew in speed and confidence with each session. The times were very close throughout, and the judging panel had some very difficult decisions to make.
"This was the deepest field of talent that we have had in the six years we have run this program, so it was a difficult decision to say the least," said Rick Ratajczak, Series Director of the Barber Dodge Pro Series and Director of the Barber-CART Scholarship Program. "The bar has been raised every year of the competition, as the drivers continue to raise their game outside and inside of the cars. All of the drivers who participated did an excellent job, but we had to pick only four guys. With these four racers in the field, it should once again be a very competitive National Championship this year."
The winners were happy to have earned themselves a late Christmas present in the form of a season of racing in the National Championship.
"This is a huge steppingstone for me and my career," said Joe D'Agostino of Plantation, Florida. "I was really honored and happy to even be selected to participate, and so to come out of this event with a season of racing in the National Championship, its amazing, and I am looking forward to the future."
Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas, Nevada, hopes to convert his berth into the National Championship into a path to Champ Cars, much the same way that his former karting teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, is currently doing.
"I had a tough season in karts this year with several mechanical dnf's, but I still was selected to participate here, and I am really happy to make the cut," said Jaskol. "My heart is in open wheel racing, and I want to make the most of this opportunity and prove myself. The National Championship will be a big challenge, but I am looking forward to it."
David Jurca was surprised to be selected, as he was not at the top of the sheets on the first day of the test. Michael Valiante, who himself won this competition to get into the CART Ladder System, encouraged Jurca not to get discouraged and to focus on his performance on the second day, which Jurca did, impressing the judges with his speed and consistency on every track layout utilized.
"After talking to Michael, I came in this morning hoping to work my way to getting progressively faster, as I knew I didn't have that much experience in these cars. He's a great coach, and I am so happy and surprised to be here now. This is my best day in racing, for sure."
Phillippe Gelinas of Grand-Mere, Quebec, Canada, was overjoyed to win his spot in the National Championship for 2003.
"I am very happy, this is a chance of a lifetime for me," said Gelinas. "I wasn't sure what to expect, since I have not raced against many of these guys, and I have had so little time in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge R/T, but it went very well. I am happy, too, because it didn't start out as well as I had hoped it would, and there were several guys faster than I was, as these drivers, well, they are all just really good! But I managed to improve during both the days, and so I am very excited. I also really like that every car is the same. That way I know if it was me that was fast, and there are no excuses."
The Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship presented by Racer Magazine will announce the 2003 schedule this week, and D'Agostino, Gelinas, Jaskol, and Jurca are all looking forward to taking their next steps on the CART Ladder.
The karting element of the Barber-CART Scholarship Ladder provides the first step in a comprehensive system designed to place talented and deserving young racers from the karting ranks into the Skip Barber competition program. The karters have a clear path ahead of them, from the Karting Run Off to the Formula Dodge National Championship Series, on to the Barber Dodge Pro Series, through the Toyota Atlantic Championship and ultimately to the CART Champ Car World Series.
This year's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship runner-up Michael Valiante, 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series "Rookie of the Year" and CART Toyota Atlantic Championship multiple race-winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series Champion A.J. Allmendinger and 2002 Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Champion Bryan Sellers, are all previous winners of the Karting Scholarship Run-off.