After taking second place in last year's Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series competition, Ron Hemelgarn moved driver Paul Dana up to the IndyCar Series, leaving a seat available in the ...
After taking second place in last year's Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series competition, Ron Hemelgarn moved driver Paul Dana up to the IndyCar Series, leaving a seat available in the #91 Hemelgarn-Johnson Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone challenger for the 14-race 2005 campaign.
For at least five of those races, Mishael Abbott will pilot the entry, becoming the first woman to contest the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in its history. The Floridian will begin her MIPS career close to home in the season opener on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and also contest the St. Petersburg round, both Indianapolis Motor Speedway contests and at Watkins Glen International.
Abbott, a Florida University student studying education with the intent of working with elementary school students, should her racing interests pall, insists her "racing comes first" but wants a back-up career. Having set the goal to complete her education, Abbott isn't about to back down.
Although she's only competed for five years in karts and Formula Mazda open wheel competition Mishael Abbott is the first woman to win a Super Karts USA (SKUSA) feature and her confidence, as she enters the world of major open wheel competition is palpable.
"Once I got in a car I found out it's in my blood," notes the woman named for a Biblical character. Since she professes to be a devout Christian, as is her family, Mishael doesn't find the name unusual in any way, although the spelling could trip up some who haven't studied the Bible at length.
"My dream is to be the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500," she declares without even turning a wheel against others in her Menards Infiniti Pro Series racer. A bit presumptuous for someone with only a single rookie test under her belt? "Our family-run team has done well on a limited budget in other series. I aim to take the time to learn at my own pace here with the limited schedule we've prepared," she insists.
While many with her background are heading directly to NASCAR, Mishael has always solely been interested in open wheel racing. "NASCAR is so big that some people don't understand what open wheel racing is all about. You can't understand 200mph on television," she states.
"I was at Homestead for last year's race and lost my voice after screaming the entire race. There's nothing like cars racing at 200mph, banging wheels together. It's awesome," Abbott insists.
A self-professed "extreme over-achiever" Abbott admits that, in school she gets quite upset when failing to record high marks and claims her "personal support system helps her get everything done each day."
The demands of a racing career leave her schooling schedule a bit up in the air, but Abbott has focused on her education for at least three days of each week from Monday nights through Wednesday, allowing her travel time on Thursdays and racing through the weekend.
Unlike athletes in other sports who postpone their education, Mishael Abbott intends to finish her degree because "education is so important to me I can't not go to school. Since we're only doing five races in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series this year, I can continue with my schooling at this time."
When she decided the Indy Racing League was her best next step, Abbott went to series director Roger Bailey who put her in touch with different teams. The best match was Hemelgarn-Johnson because "I fit well with those guys. We're all racers at heart."
By doing things "my own way, I don't look at being a woman making me different from other drivers. My goals are to gain credentials against more experienced drivers and gain momentum through the season. If possible, I'd like to compete for Rookie of the Year," she says. If she does well, Abbott hopes to gain financial support for the full season.
Mishael Abbott thinks, as she approaches her first Indy Racing League weekend that she's on equal footing with the 14 other entrants in the season-starting race. "There's no difference when I put my helmet on." While there may be "more marketing opportunities for a woman in this business, the car doesn't know the difference" between drivers.
The 420-horsepower, 200mph Menards Infiniti Pro Series Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone package presents "a big challenge. I'm going to take the time to learn at my own pace, particularly with the aerodynamics and downforce levels, but I know I can do it."
Time, of course will tell the truth of that statement.