With his feet already firmly on the path that leads to the top levels of auto racing, Lynx Racing driver David Rutledge, a Vancouver native, is keeping his forward momentum in the off-season by going back to his roots in kart racing. Over the...
With his feet already firmly on the path that leads to the top levels of auto racing, Lynx Racing driver David Rutledge, a Vancouver native, is keeping his forward momentum in the off-season by going back to his roots in kart racing.
Over the next two weekends Rutledge will be racing karts at a pair of high-profile events, and in between he'll begin testing his Lynx Racing Swift 008.a in preparation for the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic season.
This weekend at the Las Vegas Karting Center, Rutledge will be competing in the Pro 125 Gearbox class at the "Championship Auto Racing Teams Stars of Tomorrow." The event is jointly sponsored by CART, Team Rahal, Firestone Racing and the Skip Barber Racing School, and offers as its top prize a test in a Team Rahal Champ Car.
The event will be structured like a CART race weekend with practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday. Drivers will be 16 years old and up, and there will be four classes of karts competing, as well as a Pro/Celebrity Invitational which matches up Champ Car drivers with racers from the entertainment industry. The Las Vegas Karting Center track is a 13-turn 7/8-mile road course where speeds will reach in excess of 100 mph.
Five drivers from the senior classes -- the three race winners and two "at-large" picks chosen by a panel of Champ Car drivers, including Paul Tracy and Lynx Racing graduates Memo Gidley and Alex Barron (both of whom will be competing in the Pro/Celebrity Invitational) -- will be awarded the title "Championship Auto Racing Teams Stars of Tomorrow." The winners will participate in a Skip Barber Three Day Racing School, culminating in a test in the Team Rahal Champ Car.
Rutledge practices several times a week in an 80cc shifter kart with hard tires, a combination that most closely approximates the physical characteristics (acceleration, turn-in, g-load, etc.) of the Swift 008.a Atlantic car he drives for Lynx Racing. This will be his first competition experience with the more powerful 125cc shifter kart, the type of kart that Champ Car drivers use to keep their skills sharp between races and during the off season.
Since Steve Cameron, the team manager of Lynx Racing, is a dealer for the Trackmagic brand of karts, Rutledge will race a Trackmagic kart, powered by a Honda CR125 motor. His kart will also have a full Pi data system, similar to that on his Atlantic car, and all the competitors will race on a 'spec' YGB tire.
On the Monday following the "Stars of Tomorrow" race, Rutledge will fly from Las Vegas to Sacramento and drive two hours to the Thunderhill race track where the Lynx team will conduct two days of testing for the 2001 CART Toyota Atlantic season.
Rutledge will return to Las Vegas on Thursday where, along with Cameron, his 1999-2000 Lynx Atlantic teammate Mike Conte and Lynx graduate Alex Barron, he will compete in the Superkarts! USA "Supernationals Las Vegas" race, also at the Las Vegas Karting Center. Rutledge, Conte and Cameron will all be racing Trackmagic karts, Rutledge in the 125 S1 class while Conte and Cameron compete in the 80cc K1 category. Barron will race a Tonykart with a Honda CR125 engine in the 125 S1 class.
It's particularly fitting that Conte is competing in this event since, in addition to a top Atlantic and American Le Mans series driver, he is also one of the owners of CHAMPS Karting, a new national chain of top-quality indoor karting centers that just opened their first location in Redmond, Washington.
The Supernationals Las Vegas event is the third jewel in pro kart racing's 'triple crown' -- along with the LongTrack National at the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 28 - 30 and the King of the Streets national at Rock Island, Illinois on September 2 - 3 -- and will attract the very best kart racers from across the U.S. and around the world.
Lynx Racing graduate Alex Barron won the SKUSA Supernationals in 1997, the same year he teamed with Memo Gidley to finish 1-2 in the CART Toyota Atlantic championship. Gidley won the Supernationals in 1999, and both he and Barron are now driving in the CART FedEx series.
"Both of these races will be a real challenge because I'll be competing against some of the best young driving talent in the world," says Rutledge. "My goal, like all the other drivers, is to earn that Champ Car test with the Rahal team, but so much depends on things that you can't completely control that you have to find other reasons to do this. For me, it's the challenge, it's keeping my momentum going and my focus sharp now that the season is over, and it's a chance to get my hands greasy working on my own race car like the old days. I spend so much time in karts, between races and during the off-season, that running in these races seemed like the next logical step. But you have to be careful, and not think because you're driving in Atlantic or CART that you can come in and blow these guys away. Approach it like that and you'll get your butt kicked. This is serious racing with factory teams and it'll feel like a victory if I can run with the fast guys."