USF2000 to Host Mazda Road to Indy Oval Clinic The Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda will conduct an oval training clinic for Mazda Road to Indy drivers on May 6 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In conjunction with INDYCAR, sanctioning body of the ladder programs and the IZOD IndyCar Series, the clinic will offer valuable insight into the intricacies of oval racing to all USF2000, Star Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights drivers, many of whom will be making their oval racing debuts in May over the Memorial Day weekend.
“The USF2000 series has prepared hundreds of drivers to advance in their careers over the past 17 years and many have climbed the ladder to the top rung – the IZOD IndyCar Series,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “One of our main goals is to provide complete training on all types of circuits to enable our drivers to achieve positive results as they climb today’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder. This oval clinic is an integral part of that plan. Our instructors are all experienced professionals on ovals, and some came up through the USF2000 ladder on their way to the top. The clinic will provide significant assistance to drivers and we are proud to present it for the first time.”
Instructors for the clinic include Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IZOD IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon – a former USF2000 champion and Rookie of the Year; two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Indy car champion Al Unser Jr.; diverse driving talent, technical/driver consultant and Cooper Tires performance advisor and spokesman Johnny Unser; Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and USF2000 champion Steve Knapp; and Skip Barber National and IMSA Lites champion and noted driving coach Gerardo Bonilla.
“When I first started with USF2000 in 1999, ovals were not only new in terms of driving but I had never seen one before,” said Wheldon, who has finished in the top four five times in the last seven races at the Speedway. Wheldon also boasts back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010 and will drive for Bryan Herta Autosport in this year’s centennial Indianapolis 500.
“It is difficult when you come over from Europe,” he added. “You underestimate the challenge of oval racing. It is not a lack of respect; it is just difficult to understand. USF2000 provided experienced drivers to help people like me utilize their knowledge and make the transition. It was a great learning experience. You need to have this type of input and be a sponge to learn all you can. USF2000 worked incredibly well for me and I am very happy to participate in the oval clinic to help up-and-coming drivers in the same way I was guided at the start of my career.”
Topics at the oval clinic will include the basics of oval racing, proper car characteristics on ovals, qualifying techniques, racing strategies, spotters and more in addition to pace car rides around the Speedway with Wheldon and Unser Jr.
“The primary goal of the Mazda Road to Indy is to provide ways for drivers to learn all the skills they need to be successful IZOD IndyCar Series drivers both on and off the track,” said Tony George Jr., manager of business development for Firestone Indy Lights and a key figure in the formation of the Mazda Road to Indy. “We’ve already seen how the Mazda Road to Indy Summit can give a young driver the skills needed to be successful off the track, and the USF2000 Oval Clinic will provide a similar way to learn valuable on-track skills needed as they progress through the system.”
Mazda Road to Indy drivers can reserve their space for the oval clinic via firstname.lastname@example.org. The training session will begin at 2:30 pm ET and falls between two USF2000 tests at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 4-5 and at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., on May 7.
The next round of competition for the USF2000 and Star Mazda series will take place on the 0.686-mile oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in support of the popular “Night Before the 500”. The Firestone Indy Lights field will make their 2011 oval debut in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.