The Indy Racing League's Menards Infiniti Pro Series is on hiatus until the Nashville round in mid-July but Chris Festa, driver of the ...
The Indy Racing League's Menards Infiniti Pro Series is on hiatus until the Nashville round in mid-July but Chris Festa, driver of the #19 Western Union/CareCentric Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone machine is riding high after notching two podium results in the last two races on a brace of very different circuits.
The 19-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia is a rookie in this year's 14-race Pro Series campaign, driving for last year's winning car owner, Sam Schmidt. Hard to believe, but this is Festa's second full year racing cars.
He came to the IRL after running in the Toyota Atlantic Championship last season, where he finished eighth. Festa was also a factory driver for Paul Tracy Karting when his Atlantic schedule permitted.
After finishing third on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway June 11th, Festa and his cohorts came back to Indianapolis to race on the Grand Prix course just a week later. He knew "most of the passing would be done at the start. Most take the inside to break away but I went outside and followed Jeff Simmons," who missed the first turn in an attempt to pass polesitter and eventual winner Marco Andretti,
"I was behind Simmons and he was spraying oil from about the third lap. Obviously I couldn't see very well and had to crack my visor" to get a good view of the action around him.
Festa tried to catch Wade Cunningham, who took second place on Saturday in the Liberty Challenge. "I got close to Wade but it was obvious I was running more downforce than he was.
"I could catch him in the middle of the track but he could pull me down the straights." Festa settled for his third podium of the young season - he was second in Phoenix - and goes into Nashville fourth in points.
With the break in action, Chris intends to do some testing and to go into the gym on a regular basis to keep his body up to the task of piloting the Menards Infiniti Pro Series car. He has had to adapt his own driving style a bit for the challenge of racing primarily on oval tracks.
"I like a car to be freer on a road course but that doesn't work on the oval. I have to be more patient, too with the higher speeds," Festa advised. "I'm keeping my aggression level up but I'm learning to be patient with the choices I make."
Patience is a learned virtue for a young racer and Chris Festa has one of the best teachers at his disposal in team owner Schmidt, himself a former driver. "Before each session he gives his perspective on the track. All of us on the team get along so well; we go out after the races but we want to beat each other on the track."
The most important thing is to "race each other cleanly. Sam has told us always to 'be smart and don't do anything stupid'." It's advice that Festa, along with teammates Jaime Camara and Travis Gregg, currently third and second in points right now, respectively, have taken to heart.