Skip Barber Racing School INDYCAR Academy Field

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Skip Barber Racing School INDYCAR Academy Field

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 2012 Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy

 Video link

Meet the 2012 INDYCAR Academy Field

324751357838414431Aaron Gravelle, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Occupation: Marketing, Apple Inc.

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing developed throughout my childhood. It began alongside walking and go-karting got me hooked. My love for head to head competition developed with BMX Supercross that I competed in for several years and reaching the expert level. Getting my license on my 16th birthday, launch me into the world of automobiles and I have since own nine different cars with a focus on racing, while also developing my technical skills through modifications and tuning.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  After participating and excelling in open track days, my next step was the 3 Day Racing School at Skip Barber, which was something I had dreamed about since I could drive. Learning about the Road to Indy and the Indy Car Academy was the first time that I thought I had a real chance to go pro.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357843752072

A: Living in the San Francisco Bay Area has given me great opportunities in my professional career. I graduated from San Jose State with a degree in Business and have been working in Marketing at Apple ever since.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: When I got the call that I was in the running, a rush of excitement, relief, and urgency to prepare for the shootout rushed over me all at once.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Ayrton Senna, he was not only the best racing driver of all time, he also drove the rawest formula cars, and made time to give back to his community.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Indian and Mexican, because of the wide range of bold flavors and spice.

 

324751357749220270Aaron Walker, Finalist
Age: 22
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Landlord

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing began when I was about 4 years old. I was always collecting cars and knew the different specs to many of them. But when I was able to grasp the concept as a child that these men I saw on TV and various forms of advertising had the ability to race for a living, the dream to do the same arrived.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: I figured that most chances to go pro within IRL were slim to none and I somewhat just put it in the back of my mind as just a dream. I didn’t have any competition carting experience and figured I missed my chances as a kid. The day that I decided I had to try, is the day I found out about the Mazda road to Indy, through Skip Barber Racing School. Early August 2012, is when I found out about Skip Barber in general and which classes were left for the 3 day racing school in order to be elgible for the ladder system. At that moment I knew I had a legitimate shot through the system and ran with it for a October 1, 2012 booking and a November 5, 2012 class.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357843689758

A: As a landlord, I rent the few properties I have and manage the few that other owners don’t have the time for. I also invest in flipping cars from the local auction. I didn’t require further schooling to partake in trades that I knew would be viable no matter the shape of the economy. Furthermore that put me in the position to be able to afford certain schooling from Skip Barber and invest time in a full-time racecar driver “life” if made possible. I’ve been living by myself since I was 17 so when I do see my family certain weekends and holidays it’s a treat. A few of them may be coming out for the shootout.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: The first time my instructor R.B., called me to let me know I made it into the first 100 drivers for the shoot out I was floored to know that I was acknowledged although I knew that another phone call was needed to make the final 33. When I received the second phone call maybe two weeks later R.B. told me it was him on the phone and I said, “I hope you have some great news R.B.” He replied, “I do. Congratulations Aaron, you made into the final 33, you’re going to the shootout.” I told him it was the best news or phone call I ever received.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would not want to be any one pro race car driver. The spirit of competition within myself would rather imagine myself as the current champion of IRL or F1. However, to be informed of the great racers before me throughout the various intricacies of racing and how they had success on the track is imperative to me.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My favorite food is lasagna. Lasagna has probably been my favorite dish as long as cars have been my first love.

 

324751357766331767Adam Diamond, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Occupation: Commercial Contracting Project Manager

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: I’ve had the passion for automobiles and especially auto racing my entire life.  As far as I can remember, I was entralled with anything with wheels. 

Starting off with a fascination with monster trucks, as my mom fondly remembers me parallel parking my BIGFOOT Power Wheels as an infant, I was then drawn to cheering on Rusty Wallace in NASCAR. All the while my parents took notice of my passion, but given my dad was a golf professional, we did not have the mechanical “”know how”” or time commitment for me to pursue racing.

Over the last few years, as my tastes for automotive competition changed, I have followed road racing more than anything else.  The skills and techniques needed to “”dance”” the car around the track is simply amazing. 

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  As I mentioned, I was brought up in a family as far removed from a racetrack as possible.  It has always been somewhat of a dream up to this point, with all the racing fantasies being played out on iRacing or PS3.  The confidence I have now following my 3 Day Racing School reinstills the belief in myself that I can pursue this dream.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        324751357843617102

A: I’m a project manager for a commercial paint and drywall contractor, Goodman Decorating Co.  I’m tasked with facilitating field operations, communicating with our clients (general contractors), and ensuring the projects are completed in time and on budget.  I recently was on the project team for the AutoTrader.com Headquarters.

I graduated from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) and remain passionate about my time spent at school there.  I am involved with my fraternity’s board of trustees and make routine visits back.

In Atlanta, I try to stay committed to helping the community through my involvement as a board member on the Shepherd Center Junior Committee and the Buckhead Jaycees. 

Aside from racing, I enjoy going out with friends, working out, trying new restaurants, music, and having an all-around good time!

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: YES! I can’t believe I did it! 

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Fernando Alonso.  Aside from being the championship points leader (as of 9/25/12), he races, not only for the most prestigious racing stable in the world (Scuderia Ferrari), but also his country of Spain.  His understanding of how much his success means to his fellow countrymen is quite admirable.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Grilled chicken wraps.  Preferably from Goldberg’s Deli or $3 Cafe in Atlanta!

 

324751357749739977Alan Baker, Finalist
Age: 51
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
Occupation: Computer consultant

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: I’ve loved motor racing since I was about 7 or 8, when my step-father (an ex-sports car racer from Australia) started taking the family to Harewood and later Mosport. We watched the Canadian Grand Prix and the thundering Can-Am cars of the late, late 60s and early 70s.

From that time on, I’ve followed motorsports only as spectator. There simply wasn’t an opportunity for me to be a participant. My speed sport during my youth was ski racing.”

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  To be honest, no.

I took the three day school simply to satisfy a lifelong itch and belief that motor racing was something that I could be good at. And when my family gave me the excuse to take the three day course, I realized that simply taking the course and walking away wasn’t going to be enough. So I decided to take it on as much as I could in every way possible.

So when I was asked if I wanted to try for the IndyCar Academy ride, I said “Yes!”.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357843522418

A: By profession, I’m a full-time, one man business, doing computer technical support and also a part-time ski instructor. I took a couple of years of university before realizing that it wasn’t for me and finally found my best boss…was me. I’m single, an avid golfer, hockey player and skier; where I still like to go as fast as I can.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Surprise and elation. If there was a thought, it was that I wanted to be sure it was real.

I really didn’t think I was going to be in the final 33 as I’d seen some pretty good drivers around me. I thought I’d done pretty well at my 3-day school—it seemed like I was passing others a lot more than I was being passed, but when I got the word that was in the 33…I couldn’t stop grinning for nearly a week.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: This is a hard question for me.

If I didn’t know which day, I’d say Mario Andretti, because he was one of the last great drivers who had the opportunity to do it all: Sprint cars, Indianapolis, Nascar, Formula One, Le Mans sports prototypes.

If I knew which day in particular—which race, then I’d say whichever driver had the best ride on that day. Give me the machine with the best chance of winning.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: A tie between tuna sashimi and a great grilled steak.

 

324751357749856507Andre Gomes, Finalist
Age: 25
Hometown: Nashua, New Hampshire
Occupation: Computer Technician

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: December 17th, 1987, the day I was born.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Not if I don’t make a lot of money doing something else first, I know racing is very expensive. If I am good enough, this competition is the only way I can get my name out there and become a pro.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I fix computers for a living and terrorize my family in my Miata driving around town and it needs to stop. I need a racing career. I’m married to a wonderful wife and we enjoy our time together…….except on the road.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: What a great birthday gift! This after I was called on my mom’s birthday to be informed that I was in the pool of 60 drivers. And the competition starts on my dad’s birthday. How cool is that?

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Vettel, I’d learn as much as I could about how he drives, prepares for races, and the workings of the racing world.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Whatever is on the table!

 

324751357928536811Andrew Baxter, Finalist
Age: 23
Hometown: Rumsor, New Jersey
Occupation: Student, Self-employed

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: Most babies go to sleep with teddy bears and blankets, I went to sleep with a toy car in each hand.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I want to take racing as far as I can go.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I am a business major in college and also currently working on a couple start up business projects.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Could not believe my great fortune.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would be Stirling Moss so that I could drive the 300slr in the Mille Miglia.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I am a big fan of Thai cuisine.

 

324751357749963044Brandon Pratt, Finalist
Age: 26
Hometown: Milford, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Air National Guard

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: As a baby, my first words were “dar dar”, which was my way of saying car. I was always obsessed with cars and racing. As a child I played a PlayStation demo with Formula One 97 on it and was from then on hooked on Formula racing.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: No, I didn’t. When I was younger, I didn’t have the money to go kart racing or to a racing school and thought it was out of reach. After serving 6 years in the Air Force and saving money, I decided that I was going to try and achieve my dreams. I was a little discouraged after realizing that most drivers start when they’re kids, but figured you shouldn’t put an expiration date on your goals.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357843336404

A: I’m a full-time student at Rutgers majoring in Labor Studies and Human Resources. I live with my girlfriend in New Jersey and I’m also a member of the New Jersey Air National Guard. I’m a Staff Sergeant at the 177th Fighter Wing working as a Munitions Systems Specialist.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I was extremely happy when I found out that I made the first cut, but knew that they were still eliminating it down to 33 people, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Ayrton Senna in 1988 driving the McLaren MP4/4. Senna to me is the greatest racer in the world and the 1200 horse power  turbo Honda V6 MP4/4 was the coolest F1 car.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Buffalo wings

 

324751357914365537Cody King, Finalist
Age: 21
Hometown: Clarklake, Michigan
Occupation: Visalus Sciences Promotor

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing began when I was 4 years old growing up around Pat Patrick and Roger Penske. I live 5 minutes from Michigan International Speedway. My dad would take me to the track in the morning and we would watch practice or hang around the garage all day. Mr. Patrick is like a grandpa to me and at the time my dad worked for Roger Penske so as a little boy I never knew who to root for; I remember Mr. Patrick would always take my Penske Racing hat off and put on a Patrick Racing hat. After those experiences and growing up around the track I always knew that I wanted to do something along the lines of racing, and my dream has always been to become a driver. 

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I’ve played hockey all my life and still play hockey at a very competitive level so growing up I always thought I would go pro in hockey, but ever since this program I have thought otherwise as this is my number one goal. I never thought in a million years that I could go pro in driving, but life is a long journey and you never know what will unfold if you keep trying.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357914384524

A: I live in Clarklake, MI, which is located in Southern Michigan. In the summer when I’m not working I’m on the lake all day long either wake boarding, skiing, or just hanging out. Clarklake is a unique place as it is a place where your friends become your family and it is my favorite place in the world. I work for Visalus Sciences, which is a health nutrition multi-level marketing company that sells nutritional shakes. I usually work from home or at school. I attend The University of Michigan, and I am currently getting a degree in business, I am sophomore at U of M and play Div. 1 ACHA hockey for them as well. My father is Chris King and my mother is Cara King who always work with me in Visalus. I have a younger sister named Caroline King who lives in Chicago while attending DePaul University. My grandparents are Dr. Larry Jennings, Caroline Jennings, and Richard Surbrook. I love spending time with them all as I live with Grandpa and Grandma Jennings at the lake and play a lot of golf with my Grandpa Surbrook. My grandma, Connie Surbrook just recently passed away while we were on a family vacation in Northern Michigan and she always was a joy to have around and told me to follow my dreams. I try to enjoy life every day because life is such a gift and is so fragile.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: My first thought that ran through my mind was an instant relief. I had been waiting for quite some time and for a while thought that maybe it wasn’t meant to be. But after getting that phone call I had an instant sigh of relief and really got excited to get motivated again to get ready to drive.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: The pro racecar driver I would be for a day is Helio Castroneves. The reason being is not only is Helio a great driver and champion but he is so good with people off the track and I feel that I can relate to that as I love spending time with people. I also feel that Helio is a very humble person and lives life with such a joy and passion. I also strive for that passion and humbleness, no matter what you are doing. Helio got his chance to drive with Team Penske after the passing of Greg Moore, which was a terrible accident, but Helio took the opportunity that was presented to him and made the best of it. I to believe all you need in life is one chance and your dreams can come true. That’s why for one day I would be Helio Castroneves.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My favorite food is Italian, especially pizza.

 

324751357914571093Connor Clifford, Finalist
Age: 25
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Bartender, Server

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: Growing up, I was always passionate about fast cars, as if I was born with it. This obsession led to my discovery of endurance road racing which I immediately became obsessed with. I grew up with older brothers whom nurtured supported my love of fast cars, but my obsession with racing developed on its own. I remember being twelve years old, waking up at 7am to watch Formula 1 races; my family always thought this obsession was just a phase. I made an attempt with my best friend in high school to purchase a racing kart so we could kick-start both our racing careers. We soon found out that two 16 year old kids with no financial backing except for our after school jobs and meager allowances from household chores could never finance our racing dreams. We purchased a used kart in pretty rough condition and ran out of money within the first month of driving. From that point on, the only way I could get my racing fix was through simulation video games and online competition with the rest of the world.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Yes, in 2011 I earned my spot in Nissan’s GT Academy at Silverstone in the UK. I was one of the top 16 in the US at gran turismo and it earned me a shot at making a career in racing. Unfortunately, on the first day of the competition I received a phone call from my brother back home that my father had been killed. I found myself in an impossible situation and had to pull out of the competition so I could be with my family. I was told I would be invited back for the 2012 GT Academy, but unfortunately that fell through and was deemed ineligible to even compete in the time trials to earn my way back to Silverstone. I can’t express how much that hurt when they told me I would not be invited back, even if I proved to be the fastest in the country. I then was informed about Skip Barber’s IndyCar Academy and absolutely had to go for it. I can’t imagine other candidates being more motivated to win than I am.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357914590211

A: I start work at around 5 pm and usually leave around 1 am. It’s a different life and a different schedule the most, but it’s tons of fun and the pressure/stress of everything involved can be intoxicating.   I spent three years in Boulder, Colorado attending the University of Colorado. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, but was too young and naive to grasp just what a great school and what a great opportunity/privileged I was in the middle of. My third year I lost interest in my major and my grades plummeted. I ended up leaving Colorado and moving back home. I spent a year or two working, then went back to school with the idea of boosting my GPA and transferring to the best possible school I could get into. I was at Holy Cross in South Bend when I got into Nissan’s GT Academy.  Long story short, I’m currently not in school. I have the GPA and credentials needed to get back into a University, but I chose not to pursue that after being told I was to be invited back to England in 2012. 

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Thank god, it’s about time!  I felt I showed the instructors I had some talent and that my pace was very competitive for someone with little to no experience in a race car. Every day that passed in between the 3-day school and that phone call was hard to deal with. I found myself over analyzing and second guessing everything I did while in Wisconsin. Once I received the call, it was if a weight was taken off my shoulders.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Sebastion Vettel. While I’m a Fernado Alonso fan, watching that Red Bull behave around a race track is amazing, I can’t imagine what an epic experience it would be to drive that car at pace around one of the world’s premier racing circuits.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I’m a fan of all kinds of food. My favorite would be either Steak or Sushi.

 

324751357914689490Corey Wright, Finalist
Age: 20
Hometown: West Green, Georgia
Occupation: Student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: I have loved cars since my first memories and cars and racing go hand in hand.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Not at all. I have never even thought that something like this would be possible for me. Just the fact that I am being considered for this is exciting. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be chosen

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I am a student at SGC in Douglas,Ga in pursuit of Pharmacy School. I work weekends at our local vets office and weekdays at our local hospital pharmacy part time.I live with my parents and sister on our family’s tree farm.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I thought it was a joke. I left the racing school thinking that there was no way I was even going to be considered so it was a shock to get that phone call

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Ken Block. I have always had a thing for rally. Ken is someone I feel like I can relate to. He seems to be a down to earth business man / racecar driver that is not bothered by what people think

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My Granma’s Fried Turkey

 

D324751357854794525avid Alpert, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Occupation: Web Consultant/Student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: I believe my passion for racing has always been part of my DNA. From the moment I could form some syllables to pronounce the word “car” – and it was among my first words – I’ve been addicted to anything that makes noise and moves. When my dad got me a dirt bike for Christmas, 1996, it fully kicked in that I felt most at home pulling away from whatever or whoever was behind me…and hopefully pulling away quickly. Since then my love for motorsport has only grown deeper.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Yes. I believe if not now, then it would be later on when I am financially capable  to form a team and go racing at a serious level. The most amazing part about this IndyCar Academy is it allows guys like myself, the ones who always thought “hey, I could actually do that”, a place to start. Up until now my only real options were to buy a car or cart and finance myself through the ranks. I am so happy that this program was put together by Skip Barber and I can’t wait to see the talent it pushes up that otherwise would never have had an opportunity to go for it.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357854811594

A: Everyday life for me consists of waking up Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for class. I am a full-time college student approaching the end of my junior year. I am studying human communication with an emphasis in marketing and PR. When I am not studying or in class, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. On the family front, I am the oldest of two siblings. My sister is 22 and my brother is 16. We are all very close thanks to our mom’s dedication to family and friendship within that family unit. For income, I build and maintain websites for local businesses. I also like to help them save money and improve their systems and operations through new technologies. 

Beyond that, my hobbies include photography and filming (working on a short right now), documentaries, playing guitar, and the occasional trip to our local autocross with friends.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: When RB contacted me…the best word to describe the feeling was elation and after that came “relief”. I want more than anything to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I will no longer have to say “what if” – “what if I was fast enough and consistent enough – what if I could have really achieve my childhood dream”.

Finally, I have to say, this opportunity is such a change of pace for the racing world that I want to see it succeed whether I am the right person for the spot, or not. “

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: “Walter Röhrl. Why? He was an exciting driver to watch. My second choice would have to be Senna. But Walter Röhrl was just a beast behind the steering wheel of anything you could put him in. Rally, road racing…didn’t matter. I equate him to the Swiss Army Knife of racing drivers. “

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My mom’s homemade shepherd’s pie. It’s what I request for my birthday dinner every year. Not making any promises here, but I heard the recipe might be available for one of those 33 spots at Sebring.

 

Matlock_onlineDavid Matlock, Finalist
Age: 33
Hometown: Springfield, Missouri
Occupation: Emergency Physician

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: I have been interested in road racing and cars in general since my teens.  However, it wasn’t until the last few years, when I have actually been able to participate, that I have developed that passion.  The sensation of driving a car on the edge on a racetrack is absolutely addicting.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  No.  I’m probably too old with too many other responsibilities to do so.  But the INDYCAR Academy gives me a chance to see if I have what it takes.  I can’t turn down such a unique opportunity.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I’m married with five kids, ages 1 year to 10 years (2 girls, 3 boys).  My wife and I have been together since high school, now married over 12 years.  We just recently moved to Springfield, MO where I work as an emergency physician at Mercy Hospital, a very busy level and trauma center.  I work 15 days a month and am home the rest of the month.  When not at work I spend as much time with the kids as possible.  I occasionally get the chance to take my car out for local SCCA events or get a few days for a Skip Barber class.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Awesome!

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Mark Webber.  He seems like a genuinely cool guy, but I really just want to drive an F1 car.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Just about anything Asian.  I would say Vietnamese if you made me narrow it down. 

 

324751357751800795Doug Peterman, Finalist
Age: 21
Hometown: Bend, Oregon
Occupation: College student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: For as long as I can remember I have had an interest and passion for racing. When you’re around 5 years old everyone starts asking about what you want to be when you grow up. At that age I was telling everyone I wanted to be a racecar driver. Just recently I have renewed my passion and have dedicated myself to the pursuit of being a professional racecar driver. 

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  If you stay in pursuit and do not give up, I believe that there will always be chances out there for people interested in becoming a professional driver. You just have to stay relentless and keep your eye out for those small breaks and chances. 

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357843164838

A: I am a full time student at Oregon State University studying business management. When I am not in class or studying I spend my spare time with the Society of Automotive Engineers team working with the marketing sub-team and help develop the student built formula car for competitions around the world. In the summers, I enjoy spending time boating and camping with friends and traveling to new places with my family.  

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I was shocked and surprised. But after it sunk in that I would have an opportunity to participate in the Academy I was ecstatic and relieved. After I gathered myself, the next thought was to begin preparing mentally and physically for the IndyCar Academy shootout. 

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I want to see myself as a pro racecar driver before I would wish to be anyone else. I have so many pro drivers that I admire and wish to emulate someday. I would definitely enjoy meeting my racing heroes like Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Sebastian Vettel, Valentino Rossi, Travis Pastrana… etc. The list goes on.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I could eat strawberries forever and not get tired of them.

 

324751357751950382Jaime Colmenares, Finalist
Age: 39
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Occupation: Senior Manager at an internet company

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: It began in the early nineties, watching drivers like Ayrton Senna in Formula 1, Nigel Mansell in CART and Jacques Villeneuve in both…

 

324751357920754811James Allard, Finalist
Age: 27
Hometown: Hoosick Falls, New York
Occupation: IT Specialist

 Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing began when I was about 12 years old.  The speed, the strategy and teamwork needed throughout a race had me hooked.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: No but you always dream.  This is an awesome opportunity that will only have positives coming away from it.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I work for the New York State Lottery.  I go to the local YMCA 4 to 5 times a week. 

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: My first thought was awesome! My mind started racing of travel plans and people to tell, complete excitement.  I’m sure the smile on my face was ear to ear!

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Kimi Raikkonen.  Always calm, cool and collected. He doesn’t need much time in a car to get the most out of it.  Races F1 for Lotus and has the brass to pass Schumacher heading into Eau Rouge.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I would have to say lasagna is my favorite.

 

324751357752050270Jarrett Overstreet, Finalist
Age: 17
Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
Occupation: Student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing began when I was in the 3rd grade. I was about 9 years old at the time. My dad first took me to my home track of VIR (Virginia International Raceway) to watch BMW club races that my uncle was in. As soon as I saw my first race I knew that racing was what I was born for.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I think that someday i will have the chance to go pro. Ever since 3rd grade i’ve said i want to be a professional race car driver. I’ve worked really hard trying to achieve my dream and being selected for INDYCAR Academy made me think that my dream could really become a reality.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: Mon-Fri, I am a senior in High School. I take all the main courses and I also take an advanced physical education class to stay in shape for racing. In the Spring, Summer, and Fall I run my own Lawn Care business to help fund my racing. My family is like the average American family, Mom, Dad, Me, and my Sister. We also have two dogs, Porter and Winston.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I was in complete shock and didnt know what to say, I was so excited. Before I knew about it, every time I told somebody I wanted to be a professional race car driver they wouldn’t take it seriously. But now people will.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would be Tony Stewart. He has been an inspiration to me for a long time. He started out like me and put every dollar he made towards racing, and now he is a Sprint Cup Champion and owns his own race team.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Chicken Pot Pie, especially home-made.

 

Javier Cantu-Lucero, Finalist
Age: 20
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Occupation: Track Operator for K1 Speed

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: About four years ago when my family took me Karting for Christmas. It challenged me out of my skateboard comfort zone. After winning all the local Karting races, my racing friends referred me to an old Porsche that need definitely needed some TLC.  I am grateful to my family, my supporters, and all auto professionals who guided me. Many parts and labor hours later, my 1986 Porsche 944 fueled my racing passion at autocross and open track days.  During one of those events, a good friend suggested I check out the Skip Barber Racing School.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: Job: Part time track operator at K-1 Speed in Redmond Washington

Training: daily workout regimen at the gym to be strong and alert for life.

School: When I was in high school, I went to Bellevue College in Running Start program. I took college courses and earned college and high school credit. I hope to return to school to finish my Business degree.

Family: I am the youngest of five.  This has given me the experience to listen and negotiate with older people.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: It is really happening! I was thrilled and immediately called my Mom.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would be Michael Schumacher, one of the greatest Formula 1 driver’s in history.  His success inspires me, as a young racer, to always challenge myself to become a great driver.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My Mom’s home cooking of course. With my training, I eat protein, carbs and lots of veggies.

 

324751357766549182John Howe, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: Grass Lake, Michigan
Occupation: endurance test driver

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing and driving began when I was in junior high. That was the first time I was able to attend Take Your Child to Work Day, and I was able to go for a ride around the test track in a Dodge Viper.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  It wasn’t until I attended a Skip Barber 3-Day Racing School that I realized it could be possible. I have always hoped to one day elevate my love of racing from a hobby to a career. I never thought I would be given an opportunity like this. It is truly an honor and a dream come true to get selected for the IndyCar Academy.324751357769304557

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I work full time for Chrysler at the Chelsea Proving Grounds, and I also go to school part time. I always start my day by exercising. In my spare time, I enjoy going to the track and spending time with my family and friends.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Words cannot explain how excited I was, as soon as I got off the phone I had to call home and tell my family.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Michael Schumacher, not only because of all he has accomplished inside of the car, but also because of what he has done outside of the car. He seems to be a good leader by motivating his team and everyone around him to give it their all. I admire his work ethic and how hard he trains preparing for the next race.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Pizza– It’s the total package, because it has all the food groups.

 

324751357915096844Joshua Lenhard, Finalist
Age: 25
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Occupation: Single Father/ Data Entry/ Student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: A lot longer than I can remember. I remember playing with Hot Wheels as a kid, my Grandfather painted a Barbie Corvette Powerwheel for Christmas when I was five because I asked Santa for a gold race car. I never got a chance to race anything as a kid until Gran Turismo came out for the Playstation. I played racing games before but that was the first racing sim. And with that I wanted to race for real, and I always asked to go to the go kart track. I have been looking every legal way to race ever since.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: I truly believe I can if I can get a help in the right direction. I have held my own against Indycar Pros and Indylights drivers in a charity race in Vegas before the Indy race last year. I was asked if I wanted to watch by the owner of the company. Before the race began however an announcement was made that if anybody wanted to race the track to practice. Not missing an opportunity to race I asked to join in. The track was new to me, they reconfigured the layout the week before. As you race you can catch a glimpse of the leaderboard, and I noticed that I was a second faster to the next guy on a 27-second lap track.
After the race I went to sit back down with my (now 2nd ex) wife and a gentleman walked up to me. He asked me whose team I was on. I told him that I wasn’t, at that point he told me I was now on his team.

This gentleman was Bobby Rahal and the person I beat on the track. I was placed as the lead driver and started mid pack among the pro drivers after qualifying. The race was set up as a Le Mans style endurance race. The Karts would last around 12 to 14 laps with the race lasting 50 laps. Every ten laps the driver would come in and switch drivers and karts for the next stint. After my first stint I moved from 7th to 4th, and by my next stint, our team was in 3rd. I come out of the pits with 10 laps left and 1 second behind 2nd place Josef Newgarden on the track. I catch up and make my pass with 7 laps left and eye 1st place Esteban Guerrieri who is about 1 second ahead. With each lap I got closer to the point at which I was right behind him. However with 4 laps left my kart died and barely made it back to the pits. The team ended up finishing 5th.

However the experience was something that I will never forget and I want to have that feeling every week.  

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357915114739

A: Well to understand my everyday life I want to first want to tell my past.

I am a former U.S. Army Special Operation Machinist. My job was basically engineering and manufacturing of aircraft tools and modifications. I was hurt from an Airborne jump and that kept me from doing some of the things the Army wanted me to so I was honorably discharged. This is where wife number one became ex-wife one.

I worked as a production manager for a company making furniture for casinos, which honestly I hated, but mostly because of the company I worked for. In that time I met my 2nd wife. Now I don’t want to go through all the details, but basically it brings me to now.

I’m a single father who lives with my parents in Sedona, AZ. I work for a radiology clinic currently converting medical files into a digital system. I am planning to going to NAU for computer science, with a minor in physics. I was planning on Mechanical Engineering when I left the Army in 2009 because it was very similar what I was doing when I was in. Well life got in the way a bit as you can tell.

Now I just want to make a good life for my son, Drake. He has the same racing bug I did, but the difference is that unlike my parents when I was a kid, I want him to race. My parents never cared about racing or cars even until I left for the Army. I may only be 25 years-old but, I have more life experiences than most my age. With life experience come more maturity and respect. And the life I had in the Army adds to experiences that I’ve grown from.         

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Excitement, I can’t wait to go, I just worry about doing well enough to keep my dream alive.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I wouldn’t mind being Sebastian Vettel, that man has a lot of talent.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Any food that is made with passion. I like all types of food, my family is Italian so I get a lot of that. Somebody that makes their food with passion will always be a good meal, because they are making it because they enjoy what they do, not just making food to survive.

You could same the about race car drivers, if they didn’t enjoy what they did, then they would just be driving a car from point a to b.

 

324751357768977353Justin Finkle, Finalist
Age: 30
Hometown: Delmar, New York
Occupation: Gemologist

 Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: As a toddler I would build race car tracks with my wood blocks and race my matchbox cars on the blocks.  In third grade we did a class play.  Each student was asked to pick their future career as an adult, dress like that person, and talk about that career.  Most of my peers went with lawyer, doctor, teacher,  I chose race car driver.  The day of the play I dressed in my dad’s motorcycle wet suit and helmet.  I would have to say it started then.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: Somewhat.  I participated in the 3-day class for one reason, the opportunity to make it to the top 33 and compete for the number one spot.  I participated in a few Driver Education events at Watkins Glen with my dad when I was 18 and 19.  I did pretty well and realized I had some talent. Then as a 20 something I participated in the 3 day and 2 day advanced classes at LimeRock.  In the open track sessions for both classes I was never passed, I actually remember lapping people.  I really wanted to race in the Skip Barber series but at the time I couldn’t.  I’ve regretted it for 10 years and when I saw the Indy Car Academy advertisement I took the opportunity as my one shot to prove it to myself. 

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357769124313

A: I work for my family’s business.  It is a very small business my grandfather started over 75 years ago.  Both my father and mother work with me.  I went to college for something completely different but ended up following in my grandfather and father’s footsteps.  What they say about working with your family is true, it’s tough.

I have a sister who is a lawyer with a large firm in London.  She is two years younger and the brain of the family having graduated from both Cornell and Columbia Law.   

I’m engaged to be married this summer to an amazing woman who is a school psychologist.  She is the main reason I participated in the 3 day. She knew I could do it. She is my rock. We have two dogs, pit bulls.  Everyone always makes a face or has a comment when you tell them you have pit bulls, but they’ve just never had the chance to love one.  We’ve had one since he was a puppy and the female we rescued from a bad situation.  They are the center of our world and we devote most of our free time to them.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: For some reason Skip Barber has my parent’s home phone number listed under my name. I haven’t lived there in a while.  I was actually at work and my mom called and told me to listen to this message on their answering machine.  At that moment the competition was the last thing on my mind. When I heard RB’s (my instructor) voice I knew immediately I was in.  I was excited but my first thought was “Crap, I hope I make the top 33.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Tough question.  To be honest I can’t decide.  I like a driver who doesn’t conform and drives like he or she wants to.  Someone who doesn’t take anyone’s crap on or off the track.  I also admire a driver that can race in all types of cars and situations, open wheel, sport, nascar, rally.  I know everyone always knocks NASCAR but living in upstate New York I always enjoy watching the NASCAR guys race at Watkins Glen.  The finish Marcos Ambrose had this year at the Glen was awesome.         

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Anything my fiance makes.  That’s the right answer isn’t it?  Definitely Pizza.

 

324751357915185520Mac Wolff, Finalist
Age: 23
Hometown: Katy, Texas
Occupation: New Home Sales

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: Pretty early, probably when I was about 10. I went to the race track with my dad a lot and loved the smells and the noises and the people that make up a racing atmosphere. I loved and continue to love how when you are at a race track it is almost like the rest of the world doesn’t really exist. It feels like its own self-sustaining world.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I know that it’s very difficult to go pro in racing. It’s one of the few sports that talent doesn’t guarantee success. So no know I didn’t think I would have a chance like this.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: Well I just recently graduated from Texas A&M University and I now live with my parents while I work my first real world job and save some money for things like racing. I work as a Sales Associate at a home builder in Katy Texas, so I interact with people a lot and try to help them through the experience of building a home. I miss college as I’m sure many do, and I go back occasionally because many of my friends are still there but I’m also trying to get my life started in Houston. My family is great and very supportive, and my sister still attends Texas A&M.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I was excited but hesitant because I wasn’t sure how legit the program really was because I hadn’t heard about it before (obviously, since its new) and there wasn’t much information out there. As the process has gone on and I have gotten a rep with Skip Barber and the promotional info has emerged I have become very excited and pumped to compete against some of the best young drivers in the country.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I think right now it would be Brad Keselowski for a few reasons. First I respect a complete driver, someone who can compete and win on oval and road tracks. Secondly, he doesn’t take crap from anybody. Thirdly, he understands what racing is about. His 2nd place finish at Watkins Glen this year is the best example. Ambrose and himself battled extremely hard the last few laps with lots of contact and he lost, but after the race all he could talk about was how much fun he had and apparently he went and talked to Ambrose about it too. We race because it’s a blast and he gets that.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Burritos

 

324751357766690473>Matthew DonMoyer, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
Occupation: Field Engineer

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion began when I was 4 years old. When I received my first dirt bike and ever since my first ride, I have wanted to continue with racing. The first car race I attended was The Grand Prix of Denver, in 1991 when I was 3. My father, Mike DonMoyer helped further my desire to race by purchasing my first car, a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray which we restored when I was 15. Through the years I have practiced racing with both my dirt bikes and Corvette. I have not only been the driver but also the mechanic learning about repairs, preparation and setup.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Yes, I have always thought I would have the opportunity to go pro. I have worked hard to improve my skills both on and off the track. Also, I have strived to elevate myself on all levels of the champions pyramid including; physical and mental skills, communication skills, technical skills as well as my desire and commitment to racing. My competitive spirit and love for motorsports has always led me to believe I could go pro. Another reason is greatly due to my support network. My family has always supported me in my pursuit of racing. They have always been there to help and encourage me at every level as I continued to grow in my pursuit of motorsports.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357768938799

A: My everyday life is full of excitement as no day is ever the same. I am currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada with my Fiancé and 3 dogs. My day job is a Field Engineer with a major construction company. My 13 hour work day begins at 3:30am and continues until 4:30pm. For my job I must collaborate with a variety of coworkers, management and interface with different company and client representatives. My day to day tasks include managing schedules, costs, quality and engineering issues. I come home to a loving Fiancé and 3 crazily excited dachshunds where I work to assist my Fiancé with her own personal business. Following this I have dedicated the rest of my night to both working out and training on the IRacing simulator. Due to my move from Colorado to Nevada for my job I don’t see the rest of my family every day but we are always in close contact with one another. I graduated from Colorado State University in Construction Management in December of 2010. I love to race, ski, snowboard, motorcycle and golf.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: My first thought when I was contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School Instructor to say I was in the running was excitement. I would have the chance to prove to myself and my peers that all my hard work and determination will allow me to compete and be successful in the Indycar Academy and future racing endeavors.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Johnny O’Connell. I would want to be him because he is a great racecar driver who is able to drive any type of car successfully. He won rookie of year in the Formula Atlantic series, he is also a 2 time GTS champion, has the most wins at Sebring and is a 3 time winner at 24Hrs of LeMans. Another reason would be that Johnny is a very smart racecar driver who knows when and where to push the car and when to execute patience. Also, Johnny O’Connell hasn’t lost the fun and joy of racing as demonstrated in his interviews. He is the complete racecar driver that has natural talent and a hard work ethic which has led to his many accomplishments.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: My favorite food is my fiancé’s homemade Stir Fry.

 

324751357915278549Matthew Ivanhoe, Finalist
Age: 25
Hometown: Greenwich, Connecticut
Occupation: Internet Entrepreneur

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: Birth.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  Go pro racing? I figured that with enough money/time, anything is possible.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: My job is quite intense, and requires an ability to focus intensely on a number of different things simultaneously. I am the founder and CEO of Automonious.com, which helps people find his or her automotive soulmate by assessing his or her budget, usage needs, and personality. I am personally responsible for the matching algorithm that makes the site possible. In addition to that, I am a classic car manager for high net worth individuals, a trader of rare, vintage, collectible wristwatches, and act as a business consultant and board member for three other startups. I graduated from NYU in 2010; some of these ventures were already in progress years prior to graduation, however, the main focus of my life (Automonious) began after graduation. In addition to that, I have two wonderful, intelligent, hardworking and supportive parents, a younger sister who qualifies as the same, and I am close with all of them, as well as extended family; they are all extremely supportive of my automotive passions, and have believed that this was a possibility before I did. As you can see, working hard, remaining dedicated, achievement, and success are things that I live.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Shock and excitement; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I was told in no uncertain terms that I was entered into the shootout, not that I was in the running to be entered into the shootout.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Difficult question to answer, because many of the drivers whom I truly idolize died too young (Mark Donohue, Senna, Colin McRae). That said, if I had to have been any driver who didn’t die in his prime, it would probably be Walter Rohrl. In my opinion, in terms of sheer driving skill and car control, WRC drivers are the tops, and why not be the one who was the best of the best, who got to drive the baddest WRC cars of all time (Group B), and who gets to develop and race Porsches in retirement, and gets paid really well for it?

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I’m partial to Sushi, and victory is mighty tasty.

 

matt wilkes newMatthew Wilkes, Finalist
Age: 21
Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Occupation: Student

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

AI have wanted to race since I can remember, but never had a way to do it besides video games. When I was 13 I started to ride dirt bikes which eventually led to me racing motocross for about 6 years. I started looking into Formula car racing with skip barber after my uncle suggested I go to racing school. I probably annoy most of the people around me with my constant ramblings about racing, I almost never shut up about it! I’d say I have been really passionate about racing for the past 6 or so years now, I’ve put myself in the hospital many times riding dirt bikes and have to give credit to my mother for putting up with it and paying for me along the way. So thanks Ma, but this probably won’t stop any time soon.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I never thought I’d have an actual shot at being a professional racer since I was never the best at motocross and didn’t see a way to get into auto racing in an affordable manner. I did not stop chasing the dream though, and when the Skip Barber Indy Car Academy email came across my inbox, I knew I had to try. I called Skip Barber the next day to sign up for a 3 day at Lime Rock Park and the rest is history. I have always been the less than talented athlete with the most heart, but I guess according to these guys I am a decent driver! I am glad I never gave up on perusing this dream and don’t plan to stop any time soon. Other than that I am always pestering my uncle, Stan Wattles, who was an Indy Car driver about how to get into the sport. He’s always offering good solid advice that keeps my excitement in check while offering solutions to sate my craving for racing, without his advice I may have never even tried to get into Formula Racing!

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357942719233

A: I am a full time student at Clemson University, where I major in Economics and I am also a member of Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity. I visit my family pretty often back in North Carolina when I can and will be looking for an internship this summer. When I am not busy with school related activities I am frequently in the gym, I enjoy weight training and martial arts, and video games when I have the time. During the summers I tend to spend my time going out on the lake or riding/racing dirt bikes, though last summer was filled with adventures to the different race schools I was attending through Skip Barber.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I was definitely excited to say the least. My first thought was how I would prepare for it and what I could do to make the most of the opportunity. But that quickly turned to raw excitement when I realized it would just mean me being back in the car again.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would probably choose Sebastian Vettel, other than his incredible ability behind the wheel, he seems to have a very intelligent head on his shoulders which is important to me. Of course, he also has my dream job of being a Formula One driver as well! Another driver that comes to mind would be Travis Pastrana since he seems to get into every motorsport out there.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Good Chinese food comes to mind when I read favorite food, but I did have some terrible Chinese recently that may have scarred me.

 

324751357767229241Max Hanratty, Finalist
Age: 19
Hometown: Hartland, Wisconsin
Occupation: Student, Intern

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: When I was a little kid going to IRL races.  I remember being in the pits, seeing all the drivers and their cars. I thought it was the coolest thing and I immediately knew that is what I wanted to do.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  When I was little It was always a dream of mine, but as I got older that dream started to fade away further and further until I was given the opportunity to do the Skip Barber 3-day racing school.  The Road To Indy program really gave me some hope that maybe this is something that could become a reality.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: I work a 9-5 Job as a sales and marketing intern at a internet security company called SynerComm that is based out of Brookfield, WI. I am doing a lot of learning there and also some handy work around the office.  I will be a Freshmen next year at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and will be studying marketing with some IT work in there. My family has always liked racing and are supporting me 100% as I try and pursue a career in racing.  I also like to spend my time on iracing.com using the Skip Barber Formula 2000 car in order to better work on my driving lines and getting to know the courses in the Skip Barber Race Series.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: It was an unbelievable feeling. When I first heard of the news I was over excited and immediately called my mom and dad (My biggest supporters) to tell them the news. It was the first thing that really boosted my confidence and made me realize that I might realistically have a shot at the road to Indy.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: I would be Alex Tagliani. I was fortunate enough to meet him and speak with him briefly about racing and his career.  He taught me some valuable lessons on how you need to over deliver in everything you do for the sponsors.  It is a crucial part to making it big. He seemed to be a good well rounded guy who loves what he does and works hard to make sure he can keep doing it.  He is a very talented racer and I think there will be many big things to come for him in the future.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Steak is hands down my favorite food.  I am always looking for a good steak.

 

324751357767249594Michael Wu, Finalist
Age: 27
Hometown: Woodbridge, Virginia
Occupation: Software Engineer

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: When I saw it on TV when I was 8 years old and decided one day, I would do that. When it really clicked was watching Robby Gordon and Jacques Villeneuve go wheel to wheel at Cleveland in 1995.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?        

A: No way. I didn’t grow up with money or any connections to racing. The Skip Barber Indy Car Academy is great because it helps people like me fulfill our dreams and get one step closer to pro racing!

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: I thought it was a joke. I left the racing school thinking that there was no way I was even going to be considered so it was a shock to get that phone call

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?      

A: I would be Mario Andreti, becuase he got to race in several different eras and many different types of cars throughout his career, including front engine roadsters, rear engine formula cars, sprint cars, stock cars and sports cars. No modern day racers will ever be able to do that!

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Steak

 

324751357767272792Michai Stephens, Finalist
Age: 20
Hometown: Evanston, Illinois
Occupation: Construction

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing goes as far back as i can honestly remember.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  I never believed I would have the chance to become a professional racing driver, even though I thought about it every day. That is why this opportunity is so very important to me.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: When not working construction five days out of the week, my life consists of sharing quality time with my family, friends and thinking about the dream to race. At the moment I am taking time away from my studies at Arizona State University where I major in industrial design. For the first time in my life I am pursuing a path I am most passionate about while doing my best to enjoy it.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the324751357768657026 running?             

A: The feelings that arose from within me are indescribable. I had never felt like that before in my life. When I received the news it wasn’t just simply words being spoken instead it was music to my ears.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: In my mind Lewis Hamilton stands apart from all the rest. I admire his passion and respect for the sport. I also appreciate the bond he shares with his father, a bond a lot like the one I share with mine. His rise to the top of Formula One has become a source of inspiration for me as I pursue my dream.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Bar B Q chicken sandwich

 

324751358262317243Reza Kianersi, Finalist
Age: 29
Hometown: Fresno, California
Occupation: Engine Tuner

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: When I was only a few years old my father would put me on his lap while driving and let me hold the steering wheel. It was a great feeling and I was obsessed. I could not wait to do it again and after a few tries I learned to drive straight. I felt something back then, the passion had ignited.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: Absolutely! I dreamed about being a pro race car driver every day. Over the years I had learned that it doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t believe in you, it only matters that you do. You have to believe first in order to get there and you can’t quit because quitters do not achieve anything.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: It is impossible to explain, all I have to say is that it was the best phone call I have ever received.

 

324751357752220369Sebastian Cedeno, Finalist
Age: 24
Hometown: Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador
Occupation: Floor Specialist

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: It began back in 2001. I started to watch Formula One races and they were interesting, so I did some research about the sport, and the more I read about it and watched videos about amazing drives by Ayrton Senna, it became a passion, and the idea to become a professional race driver started to be in my head, it became a dream like a little kid has when it wants to become an astronaut when he grows up, but for me was to become a race driver.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  That was my plan when coming to the States (my parents didn’t know), it was my main motivation, to come here and become a professional race driver, I didn’t know how to or where, but I found the best opportunity to do so here at the Indycar Academy.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357768526477

A: I have a regular job like anyone else, I wake up very early, I have breakfast and then off to work. Lately we’ve been getting a lot of work, so we are working till late in the evening or even weekends. When I get home, I eat dinner with my family and then I try to relax listening to music and sometimes I get some racing done in iRacing.com

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: When I looked at my cellphone, I saw a call coming from Georgia, and immediately it came to my mind, this must be from Skip Barber (getting excited there) when I answered the phone the guy told me its from Skip Barber and asked me: do you know why I’m calling you for? In my mind I was thinking: Oh God, is this what I think it is he is calling me for? Thank you God! And then he told me I was chosen as one of the candidates for the shootout! I was jumping of joy telling all my family about it, and after the emotions settled in, I thought: my dream is one step closer on becoming a reality, so I must start to race as much as I can, work on getting fit and to get ready for the big challenge ahead of me.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Ayrton Senna. The passion and the ability to drive any race car faster than anyone else at the limit, is what many drivers try to copy, some will get close, but his style, his charisma will never be surpassed by anyone.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I love my Ecuadorian cuisine. This includes ceviche (shrimp in lemon juice, fried plantain) churrasco (rice, fried egg, steak, salad and French fries) and many more! But those are the main ones.
324751357767293591
Todd Soukup, Finalist
Age: 29
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Mechanical Engineer

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My first real racing memory around age three when my mom took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see the speedway museum. Rick Mears was testing that day, and I can still remember the yellow Penske racing machine whirring around the track.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A To be completely honest, when I was five I was fairly confident that I was going to be a professional race car driver. As I grew up that confidence dwindled to the point where realistically I didn’t think this opportunity would ever present its self. That said, I can’t believe I’m getting the chance now, and I’m extremely thankful.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.         324751357768428581

A: I am a mechanical engineer who plays guitar and performs improvisational comedy. I keep busy. I grew up in a middle class household, with a mother, a father, a sister and a dog. My mom and dad still live in Wisconsin with the dog. My sister and I moved out of the house after graduating college. Daily life includes designing mechanical systems for hospitals, working out, and reading the latest news on Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app while on my way to work, which ironically doesn’t require me to drive at all. When I can, I also try to get to the go kart track or sharpen my driving skills using iRacing.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: First, “This is awesome!” Then, seconds later, “Time to get training!”

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Simon Pagenaud. He finished in the top 5 in the Indy Car championship in his rookie year and his cross discipline driving experience from sports car to open wheel amazes me.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Pizza. It’s hard not to like Pizza in Chicago.

 

USOC Portrait ShootTyler Clary, Finalist
Age: 23
Hometown: Riverside, California
Occupation: Professional Swimmer

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: My passion for racing began when I was a young kid. I’ve always been around fast cars and sand rails, so naturally it’s been an interest of mine. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always sought the thrill of being at the wheel of any fast car. That, combined with the fact that I just love driving, has made me want to pursue racing for the longest time. Swimming, however, has kept me quite busy ever since I was a little kid and being that it is a much more affordable pursuit, that’s the one my parents to which my parents kept me committed. It seems to have been a good decision so far!

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A: Never in a million years! But then again, I’ve learned that impossible really is nothing and that success is just a mindset that cannot be defeated.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        

A: My everyday life for the past two years has consisted of heavy training! I am a professional swimmer and my goal for the past two years has been to making the U.S. Olympic team. This summer my dreams came true and more! Currently, I am in Key Largo, Florida for an intense training trip before I go back to my home in Michigan to restart school and finish my degree at the University of Michigan in Computer Science. I have a very active and busy lifestyle, getting up at 5:15am and going to bed around 10:00pm, but I am at my best this way.US swimmer Tyler Clary celebrates winnin

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Part relief and part joy. The joy obviously due to the fact that I had done well enough in the school and the instructors saw something in me to move me into the running for the Academy. The relief came because I want this so bad! I am completely committed to making professional racing my career after I am done swimming in the 2016 Olympics (provided obviously that I have what it takes to make it again).

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Tough question. If I have to pick just one, one drivers name keeps coming to mind more than the rest: Lewis Hamilton. He has the ability to drive a car on the bleeding edge, just like other drivers, but he does so with an aggression and a drive that I admire. I would love to meet him some day, and even better, race him…even though he would absolutely destroy me on track…

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I have to guiltily admit that I am a fast food junky. Don’t get in between me and my In-N-Out!

 

324751358279452567Wolfgang O’Bergin, Finalist
Age: 22
Hometown: Ukiah, California
Occupation: Construction

Q: When did your passion for racing begin?       

A: It truly started when i want to laguna seca for the first time to see the moto gp at the moment i decided i need to do whatever it took to get on that track and drive a race car.

Q: Did you ever think you would have the chance to go pro?     

A:  No, not really. My total lack of involvement with the racing world makes it hard for me to get the opportunity that I would get otherwise.

Q: Describe your everyday life: job, school, family.        324751358279532209

A: I spend 5 out of 7 days of the week working, mainly construction. I have never really felt the need to go to college. I have two younger siblings a sister and a brother both have joined the military. I drive a Subaru wrx sti. I have also owned an ‘06 Mazda Miata.

Q: What was your first thought when you were contacted by a Skip Barber Racing School instructor to say you were in the running?             

A: Here I come. I hope I am good enough to make it to the top.

Q: If you could be any pro racecar driver in the world for 1 day, who would it be and why?         

A: Michael Schumacher because he is a f1 driver, and I like his personality. I don’t really have a favorite driver, so I just picked the first one to pop into my head.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: sushi

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