Driver Search candidates unveiled

RED BULL F1 DRIVER SEARCH CANDIDATES UNVEILED Former Indy 500 champ Sullivan introduces 15 American F1 hopefuls Organizers of the Red Bull F1 Driver Search program revealed the identities of the 15 young American drivers who will vie for ...

Former Indy 500 champ Sullivan introduces 15 American F1 hopefuls

Organizers of the Red Bull F1 Driver Search program revealed the identities of the 15 young American drivers who will vie for fully funded 2003 racing seasons.

Former Formula One driver and 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan, the program's spokesperson and lead "scout," introduced the 15 drivers Sept. 26 during a press conference in Indianapolis.

The racers, aged 16 to 24, will be assessed in an intense, five-day testing program at a racetrack in France in mid-October. A panel of judges that includes Sullivan, former F1 driver Gerhard Berger, racing school founder Skip Barber and other proven talent scouts from Europe then will select four drivers who will be financially backed by Red Bull Energy Drink to race in European junior formula in 2003.

The driver search initiative will annually find, fund and cultivate the United States' most promising young drivers in order to return America to the world stage in Formula One auto racing. F1 has lacked an American driver since 1993, and the last American World Champion, Mario Andretti, won the title in 1978.

Realizing that F1 team owners and managers look almost exclusively to Europe's racing ranks for up-and-coming talent, Red Bull is funding the young Americans' racing in championships such as British Formula Ford, Formula BMW, German and British F3.

The names and short biographies of the 15 candidates of the inaugural Red Bull F1 Driver Search:

Michael Abbate
Las Vegas
Age: 16
Birthdate: Dec. 22, 1985
2002: Stars of Tomorrow shifter karts
Prior: Karts

Background: Abbate got a kart for a birthday present at age 10, and racing locally, he dominated. Realizing that in order to keep progressing, the "team" had to "leave town," so off Abbate went to an IKF race in Phoenix - where he was lapped twice. "The club racing success had spoiled me," Abbate said, "The Phoenix race was a real eye-opener." Only a few races later, he was finishing in the top five, and he's been winning ever since, with multiple local, regional and national shifter kart championships and a 2001 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship finalist. Abbate is the first and only American to be a factory driver for leading Italian kart-maker Birel. His dad, Mike Abbate, has raced motorcycles, cars and boats all his life.

Other Notables: 2000, SKUSA Mission Series Champion, and SKUSA Super National Champion S-2; 2001, youngest-ever driver chosen as Skip Barber Karting Scholarship finalist; 2002, three wins and two track records, second in championship, Stars of Tomorrow Western Region.

A.J. Allmendinger
Hollister, Calif.
Age: 20
Birthdate: Dec. 16, 1981
2002: Champion, CART Barber Dodge Pro Series
Prior: Karting star, Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge, Skip Barber National Formula Dodge, 3 races in 2001 Barber Dodge

Background: As a rookie, Allmendinger dominated this year's CART Barber Dodge Pro Series championship, clinching the title in round eight of 10. In karts, he was a Stars of Tomorrow winner and a multiple IKF champion. Allmendinger then graduated to Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge, then Skip Barber National Formula Dodge, where in 2001 he finished second in the championship. His father, Greg, is a carpet installer who raced at local short tracks before A.J. was born.

Other Notables: Protégé of CART star Paul Tracy, a big booster of karting; awarded 2002 Team USA Scholarship along with Bryan Sellers - the two of them excelled in the New Zealand 1600 Formula Ford winter series; as a Barber Dodge rookie in 2002, Allmendinger dominated the ultra-competitive series, clinching the title in round eight of 10.

Paul Edwards
Santa Maria, Calif.
Age: 24
Birthdate: Jan. 11, 1978
2002: World Challenge race, Laguna Seca Raceway
Prior: Karts, British Formula Ford, Formula Ford Festival, British Formula Renault, EFDA (European Formula Drivers Association) Euroseries, British Formula Vauxhall, Formula Palmer Audi Winter series, British Formula 3

Background: Here's an American driver with impeccable European open-wheel credentials, earning poles and winning races in every category in which he's competed. Some of Edwards' accomplishments include: first American in two decades to win a British Formula Ford race (1997); European Formula Opel Winter Series Champion (1998); British Formula Europa Cup Champion (1999); and representing the United States in 1997 in the massively competitive Formula Ford World Finals, Edwards notched two wins and two poles in the quarterfinals, took the pole, set a track record and finished second in the semis, and in the final, he was in third place but was crashed out by another driver's mistake - with one corner to go.

Other Notables: First consecutive-year winner of the Valvoline Team USA Scholarship (1998-99).

Phil Giebler
Oxnard, Calif.
Age: 23
Birthdate: March 5, 1979
2002: Spanish Formula 3
Prior: Karts, Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge, French Formula Renault Campus, French Formula 3 (Class-B), Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series, German Formula 3, British Formula 3

Background: In the manner of Paul Edwards, Giebler is the rarest of American drivers: succeeding in open-wheel racing in Europe. Between 1990-97, he starred in karts, mainly in the U.S. By 1999, Giebler moved to Europe and finished second in the French Formula Renault Campus Championship. Last year, he fared very well in both the German and British F3 championships and is running up front in Spanish F3 with the Azteca team.

Other Notables: In 1998, Giebler won a Skip Barber Karting Scholarship to race in Formula Dodge, posting numerous poles and wins. In 2000, he won the Valvoline Team USA Scholarship, along with Joey Hand, which Giebler used to win the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series championship and finish second in French Formula 3(B).

Joey Hand
Chardon, Ohio
Age: 23
Birthdate: Feb. 10, 1979
2002: CART Toyota Atlantic
Prior: Karts, Star Mazda, Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series, CART Toyota Atlantic

Background: With a father who has a penchant for starting businesses from scratch - restaurants, moving companies, tire retailing, housing development, towing outfits, to name a few, each successful enough to fund a passion for dirt-track stock-car racing - Hand followed in his father's footsteps, racing karts from 1991 onward. Hand tried midgets and sprints in 1997, but his love for formula cars took him to the Star Mazda Series, where he won races in 1998 and 1999. A karting injury late in 1999 precluded him finding a full-time ride in 2000, but leading Toyota Atlantic team DSTP tested Hand late that year, earning him the 2001 ride that resulted in third place in the championship, including one pole and two victories. Hand missed six Toyota Atlantic races this year after breaking his back in a testing accident at Milwaukee but still finished 12th in points with one pole, a podium finish, three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in just six races.

Other Notables: Hand, along with Giebler, won the 2000 Team USA Scholarship, funding which helped him finish fifth in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series, which Joey parlayed into his Toyota Atlantic seat for 2001.

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Boca Raton, Fla.
Age: 21
Birthdate: Dec. 17, 1980
2002: CART Toyota Atlantic
Prior: Karting star, Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge, Skip Barber National Formula Dodge, CART Barber Dodge Pro Series

Background: Ryan has won races and/or championships in everything he's raced since he first jumped into a kart at age 14. To wit: Numerous WKA karting titles between 1994-97; 1998 Rookie of the Year in Skip Barber Regional (South) Formula Dodge Series; 1999 champion in Skip Barber Regional (East) and National Formula Dodge; two wins in his sophomore year (2001) of Barber Dodge; and as a rookie in CART Toyota Atlantic in 2002, Hunter-Reay scored three poles and three wins after a horrendous start to move himself into the title chase late in the season, eventually finishing sixth in points.

Other Notables: Ryan won a 1998 Skip Barber Karting Scholarship; the next year, he won the $185,000 Skip Barber "Big Scholarship"; and he was the 2000 Barber Dodge Rookie of the Year.

Patrick Long
Oak Park, Calif.
Age: 21
Birthdate: July 28, 1981
2002: British Formula Renault
Prior: Karts, French Formula Renault Campus, Skip Barber Formula Dodge, British Formula Ford Zetec

Background: Long's first kart race was at age 8 and by 10, he was winning regional championships. IKF and WKA National titles were his by 1997. In 1998, Long made karting history by becoming the first American in almost two decades to win an international karting event in Europe, the Winter Cup. The following year, Long drove race cars for the first time: France's Elf Campus Series and the Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge championship. In 2000, Long entered the cutthroat British Formula Ford Zetec Series, earning eight top-10 finishes with a mid-level team, then he secured a ride with a top FF team for the Winter Series, taking two poles and winning a race. In 2001, Long won three races, took two poles and finished second in the title chase - the best ever by an American. One other accomplishment: He won two heats in the British Formula Ford Festival.

Other Notables: In 1999, while competing simultaneously in Skip Barber Formula Dodge and the French Elf Campus Series, Long scored 15 consecutive podium finishes; he won the 2000 Skip Barber "Big Scholarship" but declined the $185,000, deciding to continue in British Formula Ford instead.

Grant Maiman
New London, Wis.
Age: 22
Birthdate: Sept. 22, 1980
2002: Champion, Skip Barber National Formula Dodge presented by RACER
Prior: Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge

Background: Of this group of young drivers, only Grant Maiman doesn't have extensive competitive kart racing in their backgrounds. But that hasn't slowed Maiman, who sold his beloved Jeep and Buick Grand National in 1997 in order to pay for a Skip Barber Three Day Racing School, with the goal of a professional racing career foremost in his mind. With no connections, no experience and no money of any consequence, Maiman still had the support of his mother and father a result of the vow his family made that "everyone should live the life they want"; two years earlier, his sister Brooke had died of a rare cancer at age 20.

Other Notables: In 2000, Maiman was the championship runner-up in Formula Dodge Regional (Midwest) with five wins.

Rocky Moran Jr.
Coto de Caza, Calif.
Age: 22
Birthdate: Jan. 11, 1980
2002: CART Toyota Atlantic
Prior: Karts, Jim Russell Graduate Series, CART Barber Dodge, CART Toyota Atlantic

Background: After famous-racer father, Rocky Moran, taught him how to drive a go-kart at age 3, Rocky Moran Jr. was racing them by age 10. After winning 40 times in 150 kart starts, at age 15 he started racing cars in the Jim Russell championship. He then graduated to the CART Barber Dodge Pro Series in 1996, where Rocky was the youngest driver ever to compete in that championship. In three-and-a-half years in Barber Dodge, his best year was 1998 - the year the series switched from space-frame Mondiales to carbon-fiber Reynards - when he won twice, took three poles and set two fastest race laps. Moran moved up the ladder to CART Toyota Atlantic, doing a partial season in 1999, a full 2000 season and finishing fifth, won his first Toyota Atlantic event in 2001, and won again in 2002, winding up fifth in points with a brand-new team.

Other Notables: 1997: Team Kool Green Academy and Team USA finalist; voted inaugural CART All-Star for Toyota Atlantic in 2000; an instructor for Derek Daly Racing School and private coach in CART Barber Dodge.

Joel Nelson
Reno, Nev.
Age: 21
Birthdate: July 12, 1981
2002: Formula Palmer Audi, Formula Russell
Prior: Karts

Background: When a family friend invited Nelson and his father to an open-wheel race at Phoenix International Raceway, the kid was hooked. Nelson bugged his father for a kart incessantly - eight years! - and dad finally relented. But racing never kept Nelson from the books. Nelson graduated with honors from high school, which helped him earn a full scholarship to the University of Nevada. But Nelson is now winning poles and races on both sides of the pond (Palmer Audi in England, Formula Russell on the West Coast), with his eyes set on an entirely different kind of scholarship.

Other Notables: A talented musician, Nelson has played bass with the Reno Philharmonic; he is also an instructor for Dr. Jonathan Palmer's corporate ride-and-drive and track events.

Scott Poirier
Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Age: 19
Birthdate: Feb. 25, 1983
2002: Skip Barber National Formula Dodge, SCCA Touring Sedans
Prior: Karts, Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge

Background: An honors student like Joel Nelson, Poirier had been a Florida karting star since 1993 before leaping onto the Skip Barber ladder system in 1999. His successes in the Formula Dodge Southern Series earned him a $45,000 scholarship to the 2002 National Formula Dodge championship, where Poirier found himself in close battle with Grant Maiman for this year's title until Maiman clinched in August. Poirier's father, Ken, owns an auto repair shop while his mother, Ruth, is, in Scott's words, "a housewife and the best Mom ever."

Other Notables: 1999 Formula Dodge Southern Series Rookie of the Year; 2002 lead driver for Autohaus Motorsports (SCCA Touring Sedans).

Boston Reid
Kokomo, Ind.
Age: 19
Birthdate: Dec. 29, 1982
2002: USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series (non-winged), Winged Sprints
Prior: Motocross, Quarter-midgets and Karts, Midgets, Modified Midgets ("mini-sprints"), various Winged Sprint Car series

Background: Reid's story reveals a father, Lynn, who wrenched on Indy-style cars, with famous racers Fred Gearhart, Wally Dallenbach and Jim McElreath all driving for him. Those in the know say that what Reid has shown in 2002 in his first venture into bigger sprint cars points in the direction of stardom. Reid has been guided in recent years by Jeff Gordon's stepfather, John Bickford. Lynn Reid owns a Honda motorcycle dealership, and his sister Brandie is in her third year of medical school at Indiana University.

Bryan Sellers
Centerville, Ohio
Age: 21
Birthdate: Aug. 19, 1982
2002: SCCA Pro Zetec Formula Ford 2000
Prior: Karts, Star Mazda, Skip Barber Regional Formula Dodge, Skip Barber National Formula Dodge

Background: As a small boy, Sellers couldn't help but be intrigued by photographs of his father and uncles racing karts. Guess what Sellers saw under the Christmas tree when he was 9? Sellers won a host of races and titles before stepping into Formula Dodge in 1999 by virtue of winning one of Skip Barber's karting scholarships. He was victorious immediately, taking the Formula Dodge Midwest Region Championship in his rookie season. Sellers went to the Skip Barber National Formula Dodge series in 2000 and posted three wins, finishing second in the points chase. He sat out 2001, when the Zetec Formula Ford 2000 team he had signed with backed out of the series. By this year, Sellers was back in the championship - taking five poles and winning four races - and has a 27-point lead in the points standings with four races remaining.

Other Notables: Sellers' career was revived last year when he and A.J. Allmendinger were chosen for the 2001 Team USA scholarship. They both performed well in New Zealand FF1600, but Sellers was outstanding, winding up second in points for the season.

Scott Speed
Manteca, Calif.
Age: 19
Birthdate: Jan. 24, 1983
2002: Skip Barber National Formula Dodge, National Star Mazda
Prior: Karts, Jim Russell Graduate Run-off, USAC Formula Russell

Background: Most of Speed's 19 years have been spent at the racetrack. At 4, he began to follow his father, Mike, an electrical engineer and owner of Speed Concepts, an electronics instrumentation company, around as he raced. By age 10, Speed was racing karts, and by 1995 had won his first national title. Moving to shifter karts in 1997, he found more success: By 2001, Speed had won the prestigious 125cc SKUSA Super National title for the second time. It was the last of his seven national championships. The reward for that was a three-day Jim Russell Racing School enrollment, with a chance at winning its Graduate Run-off. He won. So all Speed did with that chance was race his way to the 2001 USAC Formula Russell title - and also was the Rookie of the Year. Stepping up to the National Formula Dodge series for 2002, Speed was in the title hunt all year until Grant Maiman clinched it in August, winning twice in 10 starts.

Other Notables: In his rookie debut in Star Mazda at the beginning of 2002, Speed won the race; in December of 2001, he tested a Bobby Rahal-run Lola-Ford CART Champ Car as part of CART "Stars of Tomorrow" program.

Bobby Wilson
Oconomowoc, Wis.
Age: 20
Birthdate: Oct. 6, 1981
2002: Karts, 2 races in SCCA Pro Zetec Formula Ford 2000, SCCA National Formula Atlantic (two wins)
Prior: Karts, SCCA Club Formula Ford 2000

Background: At 11, Bobby started racing karts with the help of his father, Bob. He started winning when, as Bobby puts it, "I could give usable feedback and make good judgments on setup." By the time he was 15, Bobby was racing - and winning - in 125cc shifter karts. His 2001 shifter kart season was cut short by an accident, so Bobby's father purchased a Formula Ford 2000 car. His first race with the car? Pole and win. Second race? A second place, against pro teams who used the regional race as preparation for their race the following weekend. Bobby Rahal and Wilson have struck up a relationship after Rahal saw Wilson dominate two SKUSA ProMoto races; in Austin, Texas, and Norway, Ill., event. Between the two, Wilson took four poles and won four races.

Other Notables: 1998 WKA Daytona 125 champion; with very little preparation time, Bobby and his Dad converted the Club Racing FF2000 into Pro Zetec 2000 specifications for the season-opening races, finishing an impressive fourth at Sebring.


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Series Formula 1
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Paul Edwards , Gerhard Berger , Paul Tracy , Joey Hand , Rocky Moran Jr. , Mario Andretti , Jonathan Palmer , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Scott Speed , A.J. Allmendinger , Patrick Long , Scott Poirier , Skip Barber , Derek Daly , Grant Maiman , Joel Nelson , Bryan Sellers , Jim McElreath , Phil Giebler , Boston Reid , Rocky Moran , Bobby Wilson