Markham, Ontario, resident Daniel Di Leo, has just wrapped up another two days of racing in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship. This weekend, at Putnam Park in Indiana, the eighteen-year-old racer competed in rounds seven and...
Markham, Ontario, resident Daniel Di Leo, has just wrapped up another two days of racing in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship. This weekend, at Putnam Park in Indiana, the eighteen-year-old racer competed in rounds seven and eight of the US-based invitational series, taking sixth place yesterday before being hit from behind and knocked out of today's race.
A multi-time karting champion, Daniel is becoming more and more comfortable in cars and his years of racing experience are paying dividends behind the wheel of his Select Auto Collision/Max Auto Supply/Corporate Benefit Formula Dodge car. He has established himself as one of the drivers who will be fighting for the top positions at each race. With his consistently improving form, however, comes the reality of more cut-throat competition and the on-track battles in the equally-prepared machines are getting somewhat physical.
"There are eight or nine of us that are quite even," Daniel relates. "It's very hard to pass and with a train of cars running nose to tail, contact is almost unavoidable. Most of it's pretty harmless."
This weekend, the bumping and grinding cost Daniel heavily in terms of championship points. He qualified his Select Auto Collision/Max Auto Supply/Corporate Benefit car fifth on Saturday and, during the race, was in the midst of a multi-car leader battle. Several times he lost places in the rough and tumble battle, but kept putting his head down and working his way back up. Eventually he finished sixth.
"I was up and down all race," Daniel recalled. "I just happened to be sixth when they threw the checkered flag. It's a balancing act when you're racing so close like that. I sometimes leave a bit of space to the car in front so that if they start bumping ahead of me, I can drive around them. At the same time though, when I drop back a little bit, the driver behind me is going to try to take my spot. You really have to be aware of which driver is where and what they're likely to do."
Today, Daniel qualified eighth, for a race that was run in very tricky conditions. Rain had wet the track earlier in the day, but when the race started, the circuit was a mix of dry, damp and wet sections. Again, Daniel found himself moving up and down the order, but as the race began to settle down, he hooked up with fellow Canadian driver Anthony Simone and the pair worked together to pick their way to the front. Having moved from eleventh to fifth, Daniel figured he was good for a top-three finish, but it all came undone when he was hit from behind and knocked out of the race.
"I was braking for the slowest part of the track when I was hit," said Daniel. "The guy who ran into me apologized after the race. He said that he was distracted by the guy following him and was keeping an eye on his mirrors, missed the braking point and hit me. He said he was sorry, so as far as I'm concerned it's over with. No hard feelings, just unfortunate for me. I can't help but think 'what if' because I was as fast as Simone today and he won."
Daniel will be back in the cockpit in three weeks when the Formula Dodge series travels to Gateway International Raceway in East Saint Louis, Illinois over the August 24-25 weekend for rounds nine and ten.