Skip Barber’s ‘Sweet 16’ Revealed

< Back 10/12/2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 LAKEVILLE, Conn. – Skip Barber Racing, the organizers of the largest and single most important event for karters transitioning to racecars — the Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out — announced their ”Sweet 16” picks today. This elite group of karters will join 44 other karters to try to earn scholarships in one of the four Skip Barber Regional Race Series or a fully paid season in the Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER (approximate value of $45,000).

At least $100,000 in total will be awarded at the ninth annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, Jan. 13-14-15, at Sebring International Raceway.

By being selected, these 16 automatic invitees — most of whom are drivers from the Snap-On Stars of Karting Presented by the IRL series and/or the WKA — have already been awarded scholarships worth $7,000 each: a Skip Barber Three Day Competition Course plus the seat-time and coaching value of the Shoot-out itself.

In alpha order:
Brandon Adkins, 20, Port Washington, Ohio
Patrick Barrett, 16, Los Osos, Calif.
Tyler Dueck, 18, Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
Tad Funakoshi, 18, Galt, Calif.
Logan Gomez, 16, Crown Point, Ind.
Paul Harraka, 16, Fair Lawn, N.J.
Pat Iannucci, 19, Muttontown, N.Y.
Chris Keller, 17, Green Brook, N.J.
Justin Larson, 17, Safety Harbor, Fla.
Caleb Loniewski, 19, Michigan City, Ind.
Luis Martinez, Jr., 15, Baldwin Park, Calif.
Joel Miller, 17, Hesperia, Calif.
Ryan Phinny, 15, Carmel Valley, Calif.
Andre Villarreal, 17, Miami, Fla.
Kyle Wiegand, 19, Bargersville, Ind.
Ryan Yop, 18, Salinas, Calif.

In addition to these 16 elite picks, the January Shoot-out will include other top WKA and Stars of Karting drivers who have entered by virtue of having applied for the Shoot-out then graduated from a Skip Barber Racing School this year (the application/eligibility deadline is December 31). Chris Kretzmer, Skip Barber’s karting relations manager, says the Shoot-out field is ”rapidly approaching capacity,” which is 60 drivers, including the Sweet 16. Since the introduction of the ”open entry” format to the Shoot-out two years ago, more than 40 percent of the scholarships have been awarded to at-large entrants.

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At last year’s Shoot-out, 30 ”at-large” karters joined the ”Sweet 16.” Jordy Vorrath, who won the biggest prize, is 10th from the far right, and Cole Nelson (second prize) is second from the right.

Rick Ratajczak, who has directed Skip Barber karting scholarship programs since 1997, says, ”We truly feel there is no better opportunity for the serious young karter than the Skip Barber system if the desire is to get into professional racing’s top ranks. The equal-car premise behind every Skip Barber auto racing championship, the coaching, the serious amount of seat time, intense competition, the value of our racing — all that’s been attracting the best karters for a number of years.”

Snap-on Stars of Karting principal and IRL IndyCar driver Bryan Herta had this to say about the Sweet 16 picks. ”As always, Skip Barber Racing and the selection panel have done a great job in identifying the best-of-the-best for the Shoot-out in January,” adding, ”It’s important to recognize the special accomplishments of these drivers, and that’s why they’ve already earned a Skip Barber School. We are very proud to have the majority of the automatic invitees be Snap-On Stars of Karting competitors. We’re all looking forward to watching them do well in January, along with those Stars competitors who’ve chosen to enter on their own.”

This Skip Barber Racing ”karting star search” system has over the past eight years unearthed, rewarded then developed such talents as A.J. Allmendinger, Scott Speed, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Joey D’Agostino, Colin Fleming, Michael Valiante, Patrick Long, Matt Jaskol, Charlie Kimball and a multitude of others. Last year, Jordy Vorrath won the top Shoot-out scholarship — a paid season in this past year’s Skip Barber National — and went on to finish second in the prestigious junior series, winning five of the 14 races, one more than champion Gerardo Bonilla. Cole Nelson earned the runner-up prize, a half-season of National, and finished third in the chase with a win and nine podiums.

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Vorrath’s first of five wins in the 2005 National came at Lime Rock Park in May.

Rick Roso

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