2004 Indianapolis 500 Champion Buddy Rice and Champ Car
Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger Lend Support to Team USA Scholarship
Christchurch, New Zealand (January 3, 2005) -- Two of North America's brightest auto racing rising stars have made a commitment to help other talented youngsters follow in their footsteps by contributing to the Team USA Scholarship fund, which this year is sponsoring 18-year-old Oklahoma driver Slade Miller in six upcoming races of the Talley's New Zealand Formula Ford Championship.
Buddy Rice, winner of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 for Rahal Letterman Racing, and A.J. Allmendinger, who claimed the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year Award in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, driving for RuSPORT, are both former winners of the Team USA Scholarship, which was founded in 1990. Rice, 28, claimed his prize in 1997, while Allmendinger, 23, won a Team USA Scholarship in 2001. The pair join fellow former recipients Jimmy Vasser (1990), Bryan Herta (1991) and Bryan Sellers (2001) in contributing sponsorship dollars.
Other supporters of one of the sport's most prized traditions include Doug Mockett & Company, a Torrance, California-based producer and supplier of "Fine Architectural Hardware For Your Fine Furniture," Champ Car team owner Dale Coyne and noted public relations representative Dan Layton, as well as long-time program advocates Steve and Christine Horne, Ivey Engines, Sparco racewear and RACER magazine.
"It seems like a long time ago now, but winning the Team USA Scholarship was a big help to my career," said Rice, from Phoenix, Arizona. "I met a lot of influential people, and racing overseas for the first time taught me a lot about what I needed to do for the future. It's taken a while, but I'm really happy to be able to put something back into a program that has done so much for young drivers like me over the years."
Added Denver, Colorado, resident Allmendinger: "Winning a Team USA Scholarship meant so much to me. I learned a lot of lessons about myself and about what I needed to do to move on up the racing ladder. I'm very grateful to all the people who helped me and I'm happy to be able to help someone else get the same opportunity."
Other drivers who have benefitted from the Team USA Scholarship since its inception in 1990 include Ashton Lewis (1992), who in 2004 finished among the top 10 in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series with his family-run team; Memo Gidley (1995), who recently signed a deal to contest the 2005 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with Finlay Motorsports; Andy Lally (1999), who claimed the 2004 Grand-Am Super Grand Sports (SGS) series championship in a TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup; Jeff Simmons (1999), who made an impressive Indy Racing League debut at the Indianapolis 500 with Mo Nunn Racing; and Phil Giebler (1999), who won the 2004 season-opening Infiniti Pro Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, driving for Keith Duesenberg Racing.
This year's Team USA Scholarship winner, Slade Miller, is currently in New Zealand, and today will start testing his Stealth/Van Diemen chassis in preparation for a trio of races next weekend at Levels Raceway, Timaru. Miller also will contest one of the Southern Hemisphere's most prestigious races, the New Zealand Grand Prix, at Teretonga Park, Invercargill, the weekend of January 15/16.