Earning their Stripes Drive4USA wants to change the face of open wheel racing. For the past several seasons, it has been doing just that. Now, an expanded program in 2004 finds two drivers campaigning to earn their stripes with the assistance of...
Earning their Stripes
Drive4USA wants to change the face of open wheel racing. For the past several seasons, it has been doing just that. Now, an expanded program in 2004 finds two drivers campaigning to earn their stripes with the assistance of Drive4USA. Joining last season's successful affiliation with Bryan Sellers in Toyota Atlantic, young Michael McDowell was added to the Drive4USA driver line-up and has been tearing up the tracks in the 2004 Star Mazda Series.
The drivers of Drive4USA have been specifically targeted as among the most promising young Americans in professional training-ground series. The selection itself is seen as reinforcing a driver's credentials as "one to watch" among the stand-outs that routinely find themselves competing against one another in any one of several premier professional series. They all share common traits that are key to their selection as Drive4USA driver ambassadors. Besides bringing ample loads of driving talent, desire, sportsmanship and a personable demeanor, they must also be American, either by birth or choice. Drive4USA's sole objective is to assist American drivers gain experience and the funding needed to compete their way to the pinnacle of open-wheel racing.
Recognizing that American drivers were often missing from the grids of many open-wheel series, veteran motorsport enthusiast and part-time competitor, Rick Waddell decided he would step up and do something to level the playing field. He simply wanted to help American drivers showcase their talent against often better funded and stronger sponsored contingent of foreign drivers. Never wanting to replace the international flavor of open-wheel formula car racing, Waddell wanted Americans included to compete against those more generally perceived as the best and most talented drivers in the world; those from Europe or South America. He believed, as do many within the open-wheel ranks, that American drivers do not lack in talent, but rather the infrastructure needed to cultivate their raw talent. The Drive4USA initiative was born, originally under the banner called "Kart2CART". With the demise of CART, Waddell and his staff decided to change the name to reflect more accurately the program objectives and the landscape changes in open-wheel racing. In those early days, several drivers benefited including, Pete Mercier, Case Montgomery, Andy Lally, Grant Ryley and the aforementioned Bryan Sellers, all competing in the Toyota Atlantic Series. Now, Michael McDowell broadens the Drive4USA universe with his entry in the Star Mazda series, signaling the beginning of a broadened and more comprehensive approach to the program. With its growing presence in open-wheel racing, Drive4USA is ideally positioned to bring added dividends to the sport of open-wheel racing in general, and the spirited drivers selected to represent Drive4USA specifically.
Selecting a Drive4USA driver is a difficult task, but recognizing one at the race track is easy. Each driver selected to the program is entitled to wear on his driver's uniform, the Drive4USA racing "stripes" logo. Only Drive4USA drivers can wear the "stripes" and displaying them on the driver's uniform makes each driver instantly recognized as being selected for the program. It's considered a distinct privilege to be selected and displaying the stripes is the driver's visual confirmation as being entrusted with representing Drive4USA's menu of goals and ambitions.
The 2004 crop of Drive4USA drivers appears to be taking their selection seriously. Bryan Sellers took 2nd place at the Cleveland round of the Toyota Atlantic series marking his highest finish in the series to date and Michael McDowell scored his 2nd victory in two races at the Lime Rock Star Mazda event on July 3.Two American drivers. Two winning race car drivers. And one driver development initiative that is helping them drive their careers to the pinnacle of racing.
So the next time you find yourself in the racing paddock observing the next generation of race driver stars, take a second look at the drivers climbing in the cockpit of their race cars.You may note that a select few are already earning their stripes, the racing ambassadors of Drive4USA.