Top Two USF2000 Drivers Test Star Mazda Cars at Sebring Friday The USF2000 series' top two drivers of 2010, Sage Karam and Patrick McKenna, accomplished another milestone on their personal roads to Indy on Friday when they tested Andersen Racing Star Mazda cars at Sebring International Raceway.
The "Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda" is the first step in the Road to Indy program. The Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear is the second step. It is followed by Firestone Indy Lights, the official development series of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Andersen Racing, a sister company of Andersen Promotions, which promotes the USF2000 series, allowed both rising stars to drive two of its Star Mazda cars at a private test at Sebring as a reward for doing so well in the USF2000 series this year.
Andersen Racing, which is based at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla., is the reigning Star Mazda team champion.
Karam, 15, of Nazareth, Pa., earned a scholarship from Mazda valued at $350,000 to help him advance to the Star Mazda series next year as part of his awards for winning the driver title in the USF2000 series' top division, the Championship class. His team, Andretti Autosport, won that class's team championship too. Karam was also a 2010 semi-finalist in Sports Illustrated Kids' SportsKid of the Year contest.
McKenna, 23, of Dublin, Ireland, finished second to Karam driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Earlier this week he was named the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland "Young Driver of the Year" for the second consecutive year.
Both young drivers hope to advance to the Star Mazda series next year, and both were enthusiastic about Friday's test.
"Testing a Star Mazda car was a totally new experience for me," Karam said. "The car was great. I am definitely looking forward to the season. We have a lot to learn and it's going to take time, but we can do it. I have to thank Andersen Racing for the test. Everything was great!"
It was McKenna's first experience driving a Star Mazda car ever.
"I loved the car; it's fantastic!" McKenna said. "With a bit more power and downforce it really suit my style, and I enjoyed driving it and working with the team.
"It was quite a solid day; we didn't put any wheels wrong," McKenna added. "We got down to a 62.5 and then I went a little slower in the heat of the day. I was able to set my fastest lap in the last session even though the tires had about 130 miles on them, so I was happy about that.
"It was a half-day test but it was spread over the day, so it was about 60 laps in all," he said.
"I enjoyed working with the team and I want to thank Andersen Racing for giving Sage and I the opportunity to test their Star Mazda cars. It was a great opportunity to sample the car. It was my first time in a Star Mazda car and my first time at Sebring.
"I'd like to try to do Star Mazda next year, and hopefully this is a good step towards that goal," McKenna concluded.
"It was a really good test; we got a chance to see what the top two drivers in the USF2000 Championship could do with a car on the next level," said Geoff Fickling, Andersen Racing's Star Mazda team manager/engineer. "It was pretty neat to see their learning curve, and how well prepared they are as young drivers. They both did a really good job, and it was a pleasure working with them.
"USF2000 drivers who are in a Star Mazda car for the first time have to learn how to utilize the added downforce to their advantage - most importantly in the braking zones," Fickling continued. "They have to learn how to maximize the car under braking as well as their down-shifting; that's the biggest thing they have to come to grips with early on."
The 2011 USF2000 season opener is a doubleheader March 17-18 at Sebring as preliminary events to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the premier event of the American Le Mans Series.
In January Sebring International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. will be the site of the Cooper Tires Winterfest, a two-event, five-race USF2000 Winter Series.
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