Victor Carbone eyeing IndyCar Series
Victor Carbone, a graduate of Miami’s St. Brendan High School, is only 19. But he already knows full well the dangers of his sport.
The reminders are everywhere.
Carbone’s team owner, Sam Schmidt, is paralyzed from the shoulders down as a result of an accident during testing in Orlando on Jan. 6, 2000.
Carbone’s favorite racer, Ayrton Senna, died after a wreck in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Even Carbone’s first Indy Lights win, on Oct. 16, 2011, was overshadowed by tragedy later that day on the same Las Vegas race track. Dan Wheldon, 33, was pronounced dead shortly after a 15-car crash at the IndyCar World Championship.
“It was an extremely unfortunate situation for Dan in the peak of his career,” Schmidt said. “But if this were a risk-free sport, everyone would do it.
“If you are scared, you are not going to go very fast.”
Carbone, the youngest driver in the developmental Indy Lights series, isn’t scared. He finished sixth in the points standings in his rookie Lights season of 2011.
“We know the danger is there,” Carbone said. “We just try not to think about it.”
Carbone, an only child who was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has been racing since age 8, when a go-kart track opened five minutes from his home.
He tried other sports, including soccer — Brazil’s national obsession — and briefly made the team at St. Brendan. But conflicts with his auto-racing career kept him from participating.
|Victor Carbone at Long Beach last April|
Carbone, who also lived in Encino, Calif., before arriving at St. Brendan halfway through his junior year, said the administrators were the most understanding he has encountered.
“Since the first grade, I’ve been to six schools,” Carbone said. “Other schools saw [racing] as a pain, but [the St. Brendan staff] gave me support as long as my grades were good.”
Mia Suarez, the assistant principal at St. Brendan, said Carbone was a delight to be around.
“He would miss some school,” Suarez said. “A crew would take his stuff to wherever he was racing, and he would hop on a plane. But he would come back and score A’s and B’s. He was very responsible and very worldly.”
Carbone’s sophistication can be attributed to his racing career, which has already taken him to Italy, Spain and Canada.
He finished 15th in the Skip Barber National Championship in 2008 and came in 10th in the points standings the following year in the F2000 Championship Series. He returned to F2000 in 2010 and won the title, winning six of 14 races.
He graduated from St. Brendan in May 2011 and soon moved — by himself — to Indianapolis, where he can be near the city’s famed track. He currently is visiting family in Brazil but plans to return to Indianapolis in mid-January to begin testing for the 2012 season.
Carbone has set a goal to finish in the top three of the 2012 points standings, which he thinks would be good enough to get him a sponsor to be able to graduate to IndyCar by 2013.
Schmidt said a 2013 promotion is possible.
“We knew 12 months ago that because of his limited Formula Car experience, Indy Lights would have to be at least a two-year program for him to learn and apply his talent,” Schmidt said. “We are headed to year two, and we are cautiously optimistic. It’s going to come down to [the 2012] season to see if he can be ready for IndyCar in 2013.”
Schmidt said he had no problems with the way Carbone won his first Indy Lights race, the 67-lap Las Vegas 100. Carbone, who had won the pole two days prior, was engaged in a fierce battle with two of his Schmidt Motorsports teammates — Josef Newgarden and Esteban Guerrieri.
Carbone had trailed virtually the entire race, but on Turn 2 of the final lap he moved quickly to the high side. His front wing sliced Newgarden’s rear right tire, causing him to fade from first to ninth.
According to reports, Newgarden was upset, saying: “I’m happy for Victor, but dang it.”
Schmidt said Carbone ran the perfect race.
“It was no fault of either driver,” Schmidt said. “The guy in front is trying to protect his position. There was a little bit of mild contact, but it was a very strategic race for Victor. He did an incredible job.”
Perhaps that’s to be expected of a Brazilian-born driver. Among the South American nation’s great racers are Senna, Nelson Piquet, Tony Kanaan, Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. Schmidt said Carbone has the right attitude to go far.
“He’s not arrogant or cocky,” Schmidt said. “What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in desire and willingness to learn.” Miami Herald