CHAMPCAR/CART: Rocketsports Racing puts McDowell in driver's seat



EAST LANSING, Mich. (October 14, 2005) - With the #31 Rocketsports Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone out of contention for the Vanderbilt Cup, Rocketsports Racing offered American rising star, Michael McDowell, an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Champ Car. In preparation for the 2006 season, the team will use the two remaining Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford events in Australia and Mexico City to evaluate McDowell's talents for a permanent seat to run for Champ Cars Rookie-of-the-Year title starting at Long Beach in April.

At just 20 years old, McDowell has driven directly into the racing limelight. In 2004, not only did the American win the Pro Formula Mazda North American Championship, he dominated it. Qualifying on the pole 60 percent of the time, McDowell won 70 percent of the races in the 40 plus car fields. 2004 was preceded by another standout season in which he claimed the 2003 Formula Mazda North American Championship Rookie-of-the-Year title, and finished second in the championship.

The Phoenix, Arizona native who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina began racing at the age of eight in go karts. After almost ten years of kart racing, McDowell proved he had what it took, winning multiple karting championships including the 1997 WKA National Karting Championship, two undefeated IKF seasons, and 18 consecutive IKF main-event wins. McDowell also established himself on the international racing stage, becoming the first Junior American to ever podium in an International Competition CIK-FIA sanctioned event.

"I am very excited for this opportunity," said McDowell about his Champ Car ride. "I would like to personally thank Rob Finlay and Paul Gentilozzi for providing me with such a fantastic opportunity and experience. Driving a Champ Car is something that I have been striving to do and I have been focusing my whole career to get to this point. I am lucky that I will get to live my dream and drive a Champ Car in the last two events this season. I look forward to the challenge and will work hard to achieve some positive results for the Rocketsports team."

Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Finlay Motorsports made its Grand American Road Racing debut earlier this year at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Co-driving a Dinan-powered Riley Daytona Prototype, McDowell and Champ Car veteran Memo Gidley (who also ran two races with Rocketsports in 2004) have compiled a record of six top-6 and ten top-10 finishes. The duo has led six races, and McDowell became the youngest driver in the history of the Rolex series to stand on the podium when he and Gidley finished second at Barber Motorsports Park on July 31. The Finlay Motorsports team is currently 6th in the Rolex Series championship.

"I consider Michael McDowell to be the finest young American driving talent racing in North America today," said Rob Finlay, owner of Finlay Motorsports, about his driver. "He's just 20 years old, he's already won the championship in a highly competitive open-wheel series, and he has a bright career ahead of him. His performances this season in the Finlay Motorsports Rolex Series Daytona Prototype against some of the best and most experienced drivers from around the world demonstrate clearly that he is a champion in the making, and I'm delighted to help provide him with this opportunity to showcase his talent with a competitive and professional Champ Car team like Rocketsports."

In 2003, Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi expanded his racing program to include the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. In their first year, the freshman Champ Car team had many successes, including pole position at the Milwaukee mile, another pole position in Montreal and three podium finishes. In 2004, the Champ Car operation was further enhanced with the addition of a second car. Round 8 at Road America on August 8th was the pinnacle of the season for Rocketsports Racing with the sophomore team's first victory. This season, the team has earned a second place finish with Timo Glock in Montreal. Glock currently leads the Rookie-of-the-Year battle and sits as the only rookie in the top ten of the championship, ninth overall.

"Michael came highly recommended to us from Rob Finlay and others in the racing industry," said Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi on how the deal came about. "He shows great potential and the desire to learn to be competitive in anything he races. We are looking forward to the next two races to allow him to get comfortable with the car and crew in preparation for 2006. His eagerness to be in the race car and to win, along with the team's desire to put Rocketsports back in to victory circle should prove to be a winning combination."

McDowell tested the #31 Rocketsports Racing Champ Car last Monday and Tuesday at Putnum Park, in Mt. Meridian, Indiana. The 10-turn long course offered the rookie 1.766 miles of road course track with plenty of run-off and nice sweeping corners making it a great chance for McDowell to show his talents and prepare for his Champ Car debut at the end of October in Australia. He worked with Race Car Engineer John Gentilozzi and the #31 Rocketsports crew as they prepared for Round 12 of the Champ Car World Series in Australia, October 21-23.

McDowell completed 138 laps, logging over 377 miles, during the two-day test. The test was a continuation from a one-day test run two weeks ago, in which the young American stepped into a Champ Car for the very first time. Monday gave the team a chance to evaluate McDowell against his previous performance, and it gave him more time in a Champ Car without having to learn a new track. He posted his fastest time on Monday of 61.34 seconds (105.640 mph). The second day of testing concentrated on some aerodynamic developments for the last two races of the season, as well as finalizing McDowell's seat and cockpit sittings. The t est concluded with several live pit stops to allow McDowell to get used to the speed and precision of a Champ Car pitstop. During his last day of testing McDowell ran his quickest time of 59.97 seconds (108.05 mph), a quick time for that track which demonstrated the talent and precision this young driver has to offer.

"I have a new level of respect for the guys who can drive a Champ Car for three hours at a time," McDowell admits. "It's an extremely physical experience and I really like the fact that it doesn't have power steering and traction control like a Daytona Prototype because that makes it much easier to feel the track and the changes you're making to the car. Going back and forth between the two different types of cars, particularly in Mexico where I'll be driving both during the same weekend, will be a challenge, but with two of the best teams in motorsports today backing me up, I'm ready."

McDowell raced this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway with his Finlay Motorsport team for the VIR 400. His next race, his Champ Car debut, will be in the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia for the Lexmark Indy 300, October 21-23. He will pull double duty in Mexico City as both series' season finales will be held on the 2.781-mile permanent road course at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, November 4-6, in Mexico City.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Paul Gentilozzi , Michael McDowell , Timo Glock , Rob Finlay