|May 27, 2011 News
|PROgression: 95th Indianapolis 500
At one time, nearly all the starters for the 95th Indianapolis 500 have spent time behind the wheel of a kart. The famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the ultimate goal for many karters over the years with 33 drivers as the historic Indiana facility is like no other. More and more, we are seeing a number of these drivers still finding time to journey to the kart track and some have even taken the step to compete at the top events in North America. With the green flag set to wave on May 29, eKartingNews.com dove into the bio of each starter and provided the website’s readers with each of their karting backgrounds.
Alex Tagliani: [left] (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio 52) ‘Tags’ was introduced to karting at the age of 10 during a trip in Italy with his paternal grandfather. From 1987 to 1994, Tagliani scored numerous karting championships in Canada, including the Quebec Junior Championship in ’87, F125 Canadian Karting Championship in 1990 and 1993, and was the Quebec F125 Karting Champion two years straight. Still a devoted karter, he can be found in the seat numerous times a year. In 2003, he introduced his twin-ICC shifter kart at the SKUSA SuperNationals in Vegas for a jaw-dropping display of speed and control. Tags also competed in the 2008 Machismo 500 event and the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic. This past winter, Alex drove in the DD2 Master category for SRA Karting at the Florida Winter Tour for the first two opening rounds.
Scott Dixon: [center] (Photo: davidleephoto.com) Born in Australia, the New Zealand native began racing karts at seven years old. He quickly moved up the motorsport ranks, granted a special dispensation to obtain a competition license to race cars at just 13-years old. Dixon continues to support the sport, and he competed at the 2005 RoboPong 200 event at New Castle Motorsports Park.
Oriol Servia: The Spaniard began racing in 1988 driving karts at the age of 12. He would stay in the sport until he turned 19 when he began competing as a member of the Elf ‘la filiere’ driver development program until 1997 before moving to the United States.
Townsend Bell: [left] (Photo: EKN) The Californian’s first formal karting experience was racing at the Santa Maria Kart Club races when he was 12 years old. After a non-racing accident put him on the sidelines for some time, he returned to karting in 1991 at 16-years old as part of John Motley’s team aboard a NKT chassis in IKF Region 7. Bell still jumps into a kart once in a while to keep sharp and has competed at the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic.
Will Power: [center] (Photo: davidleephoto.com) The Aussie began karting at an early age when he and his brothers raced at the Greer Park Kart Raceway in his hometown of Toowoomba in Australia. At 19, he quickly moved to other forms of motorsports, including sedan racing on dirt tracks. Power competed in the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic in 2008 along with the RoboPong 200 in New Castle that same year. This past season, he teamed up with ALMS driver Simon Pagenaud - placing fourth at the New Castle endurance event.
Dan Wheldon: [right] (Ken Johnson - Studio 52) The 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Champion began karting at the early age of four. By the time he was 12, he had won three straight British Cadet Kart Championships (1988-1990). Under the tutelage of Mark Rose and Terry Fullerton, he moved up to the Junior ranks, where he won the British Junior Karting Championship and the FIA ‘Ayrton Senna’ Memorial World Cup. In recent years, he has competed at the ‘Montoya Race of Stars’ and the Granja Viana 500 in Brazil. Since 2005, he’s teamed up with Mark Dismore Jr. to compete at the Mazda RoboPong 200, winning the event in their first year together. Wheldon as added a heavy karting schedule in North America to his program, but as of late fell to #110 in the EKN Driver Rankings after spending time inside the top-10.
Buddy Rice: [left] (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca) The Phoenix native who scored the 2004 Indy 500 victory started racing karts in 1989 at the age of 13. With a ride from Brian Liberante, he achieved two IKF Road Race Grand National titles and his Expert status in Las Vegas in 1995. Since, Buddy has established Tony Kart West, now located just minutes from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, with a number of future motorsports stars currently running for his stable and he himself has competed at the SKUSA SuperNationals in recent years.
Ed Carpenter: [center] (Photo: davidleephoto.com) The Indy native grew up racing quarter midgets and moved on to USAC Midgets and Sprint before jumping to the Indy Lights program. In 2008, Carpenter’s first competitive race in a kart was during the RoboPong 200 at New Castle Motorsports Park. He would come back in 2009 to be the co-winner of the event with Nathan O’Rourke. Carpenter has also competed at the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic.
Dario Franchitti: The Scottish driver comes from an association with former karting stars of the country. In 1984, Franchitti earned the Scottish Junior Championship, the British Junior Championships in 1985 and 1986 along with the Senior Scottish title in 1988. He then progressed up the motorsports ranks in Europe.
Takuma Sato: The Japanese driver began his racing career on two wheels, competing in bicycle racing where he won several national junior championships. It wasn’t until 1996 at age 19 that he began karting. In 1997, he entered Honda’s Suzuka Racing School and won a fully paid drive in the 1998 All-Japan Formula 3 Championship.
Vitor Meira: [center] (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca) Vitor began racing karts in Brazil when he was 12 and spent seven years competing in the sport before moving to Europe in 1995 to pursue his car racing career. Meira can be found at the kart track during his off-time, racing at the Mazda RoboPong 200 event at New Castle Motorsports Park, PRI All-Stars Karting Classic, as well as stints at the Granja Viana 500 and other karting events in his native Brazil.
JR Hildebrand: The Californian got his start in karting through the Jim Russell Arrive and Drive Kart Series at Infineon Raceway’s Jim Russell International Karting Center. In 2002, JR won the TaG 125 championship, winning four of the six events. The following year, Hildebrand drove in the 80 Junior category in his first year aboard a shifterkart. With three wins in six races, JR finished second in the series championship. That same year, he was invited to compete in the Jim Russell Graduate Runoffs where he claimed the overall first place prize of a free year of racing in the SCCA Formula Russell Championship Series for 2004.
James Hinchcliffe: [left] (On Track Promotions - otp.ca) A rookie at the Indy 500, the mayor of ‘Hinchtown’ got his start at karting in 1996 near his hometown of Oakville, Ontairo. Hinchcliffe earned a number of titles at the Toronto Kart Club before moving to regional and national competition with First Kart North America. Hinch was a standout in the 80 Junior category before moving up to the ICC category where he stood on the podium a number of times in the United States and Canada until moving to cars in 2003.
Bertrand Baguette: At age 14, the Belgian driver began karting. Adapting quickly, Baguette rose up the karting ladder to compete both in his home nation and across Europe, earning the Belgian Championship in Intercontinental A division running a Tony Kart entry.
Davey Hamilton: [right] (Photo: daveyhamiltonracing.com) While Hamilton does not have a karting background, his son DJ Hamilton has raced 600 mini sprints, focus midgets on ovals and now sprint karts at New Castle Motorsports Park.
Helio Castroneves: [left] (Photo: heliocastroneves.com) The three-time Indy 500 winner began karting at age 14 in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil. After success there, he moved on to the international karting scene before moving into the open wheel ranks in 1992. Castroneves competed in the 2004 Granja Viana 500 event, finishing second with Gil de Ferran, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Ruben Carrapatoso.
John Andretti: [center] (Photo: davidleephoto.com) Certainly a jack of all trades, there is nothing that John Andretti has not raced in motorsports, from open-wheel, NASCAR, road racing and drag racing, Andretti has the need for speed. One of the great things Andretti does for charity is the Race for Riley, benefiting the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, which takes place at New Castle Motorsports Park every year. John’s son Jarrett competed at the Kershaw, SC round of the WKA Manufacturer’s Cup Series event in the TaG category.
E.J. Viso: Ernesto Jose (EJ) Viso has a solid karting CV both in his home country of Venezuela and internationally. Entering the sport in 1993, he scored a number of regional, national and Panamerican championships as a Junior driver. Viso was an official CRG driver, racing for the Italian based operation around the world, including the 1998 North American Karting Championships. After competing with the Birel factory in 2000, Viso moved to the United States to hone his open wheel skills in Skip Barber competition.
Justin Wilson: [left] (Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine) The British driver began racing karts in 1988 before he was nine years old. Moving up the ranks, Wilson was racing Formula A by age 15, which was early in that time. When regulations allowed for 16 year olds to race cars, Wilson jumped to the Junior open wheel ranks in Europe, eventually making his way to Formula One in 2003. Residing in Denver, Colorado, Wilson was the grand marshal for the Rotax Max Challenge US Grand Nationals in 2007. Wilson returned to a kart during the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic in 2009.
Jay Howard: [center] (Photo: davidleephoto.com) Born in Basildon, England, Howard began karting at the age of 7 with his father Paul. Jay worked his way up the karting ranks and shine during his Junior years, winning 21 consecutive races at one time. Howard’s glory came with three British titles - the 1997 Intercontinental A British Open Championship, the British Championship and the 1999 ICA British Open Championship. Along with his father, Howard began Screaming Talent karting team in the United States and recently opened Ogden USA Racing Engines. In 2008, Howard won the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic and last year teamed with Bill McLaughlin Jr. to win the RoboPong 200 endurance event.
Tomas Scheckter: [right] (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca) Born in Monaco, the South African and son of 1979 Formula One Champion Jody Scheckter began karting at age 11. It took him just four years to earn the South African Kart Championship (1995). Scheckter and his brother Toby both competed at the SKUSA SuperNationals VIII in the TaG Senior class. Toby scored the victory with Tomas in third. Scheckter has also raced in the RoboPong 200 and the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic.
Tony Kanaan: [left] (Photo: tonykanaan.com) The Brazilian began his racing career in karting, starting back in 1985 at age 11. From Junior competition all the way through 1990 at the Senior level, Kanaan won a number of championships in Sao Paulo. Kanaan is a regular competitor of the Granja Viana 500 and is a former winner of the Brazilian event.
Simona De Silvestro: [center] (Photo: Chris Walker - kartpix.net) The Swiss-Italian competed in the European ranks of karting from 2002 to 2004. A solid competitor in the Junior ranks aboard Swiss Hutless and Intrepid brands, De Silvestro ran only one year in Formula A before jumping to open-wheel cars.
Paul Tracy: [right] (Photo: paultracy.com) The Canadian began his karting years at the nearby facility - Goodwood Kartways. Tracy groomed himself throughout the tracks in North America and eventually traveled to Europe where he placed sixth in the Junior World Cup in Laval, France. In 1999, Tracy formed a kart racing team and branded his own chassis (Paul Tracy Karts or PTK). They were originally developed by CRG of Italy before moving to Tony Kart in 2004. A.J. Allmendinger, Colin Fleming, Benny Moon and many others have piloted the karts to victory.
Danica Patrick: [left] (Photo: danicapatrick.com) Danica mania began back in 1992 when she began karting in Illinois. Competing in club, regional and national programs, Danica made a name for herself by the results she recorded. In 1994, she earned her first WKA Manufacturer’s Cup Series title (Yamaha Sportsman), adding two more as a Junior in 1996 along with many Grand National victories up through 1997 when she entered Senior level racing.
Ryan Briscoe: [center] (Photo: ryanbriscoe.com) Beginning his racing career in 1993 at the age of 11, Briscoe quickly moved up the karting ranks. Winning titles in Australia from 1994-1996, Briscoe moved to Italy to be part of the CRG factory team. In 1998, Briscoe competed in North American Karting Championships in Nevada and Charlotte running the Formula A category. After another successful year in 1999 in karting, finishing 14th at the Karting World Championships, he made the switch from karts to cars.
Marco Andretti: [right] (Photo: Clare Weaver) The third generation Andretti began his racing career in karts in 1997, racing at a local kart track in Flemington, N.J. In 1999, he moved to the Oakland Valley Raceway Park facility, earning his first victory. Two seasons of OVRP championships brought Andretti to the Stars of Karting (Stars of Tomorrow at that time) in 2002. He won the regional title at OVRP, podiums and pole positions in World Karting Association competition and a national race in Nevada. The following year was his first year in open-wheel cars. He made one start at the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic (2007).
Charlie Kimball: [left] (Photo: charliekimball.com) Born in England, the Californian began karting at the age of nine. Charlie earned a number of local and regional victories and championship, including seven IKF national title. In 2000 and 2001, Kimball shined in the K1 division (80cc Senior) placing second at the SKUSA SuperNationals IV and scoring wins at the 2001 SKUSA ProTour World Finals and SuperNationals V - earning him the then-named Shifter Kart Illustrated Excellence Awards Rising Star nomination.
Graham Rahal: [center] (Photo: Jeff Deskins) It all began for the second-generation driver at the Ohio Valley Karting Association in Camden where Rahal made his karting debut. From there, he worked his way through the karting ranks of WKA, Superkarts! USA and the Stars of Karting. Rahal excelled as a Junior and did phenomenal at age 14 racing against the nations best at the top level of karting at that time. In 2010, he teamed with Conor Daly at the RoboPong 200 where they placed second.
Alex Lloyd: [right] (Photo: Chris Walker - kartpix.net) At age nine, Lloyd began racing karts in the British Super One Series and throughout Europe, racing against the likes of Lewis Hamilton and other rising British stars at that time. In 1999, Lloyd scored the British Open Championship before moving on to open wheel cars.
Pippa Mann: [left] (Photo: Chris Walker - kartpix.net) The Indy 500 rookie from the UK began racing after receiving a kart for her 13th birthday. After racing Junior TKM at the local club level, Mann qualified for the British National Championships after winning several club races that year. She stepped up to the international level in 1999 in Intercontinental A at the famed Winter Cup. Unfortunately, she broke a number of ribs and spent most of the season healing. The next year, she drove Formula A in the UK with some international events on the schedule. In 2001, Mann moved to Italy to be part of the Top Kart factory team, racing in ICA. The next season she drove Formula A aboard a Maranello at a number of international events, placing inside the top-five and earned her CIK A license to qualify for the Formula A World Championship race in Jesolo. After a brief 2003 karting season, she moved on to cars.
Ana Beatriz: [center] (Photo: biaracing.com) The 25-year old and highest starting female driver in the field began karting at the age of 9. During her nine years of karting, ‘Bia’ worked with Nailor Campos, former coach of Tony Kanaan, Rubens Barrichello, and many others. She would earn a number of titles in Brazilian karting before moving to open-wheel racing. This past winner, ‘Bia’ won the second race of the International Challenge of Go-Kart Champions charity race in Florianapolis, Brazil.
Ryan Hunter Reay: [right] (Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine) The Florida driver began karting in 1992 at the West Coast Karting program in Naples, Fla., running the 4 Cycle Jr. Sportsman division on an Advanced Racing Engines Invader. He gained valuable experience that led to earning Triple Crown Club honors in 1996, with four World Karting Association championships, two in the Manufacturer’s Cup Series and two in the Gold Cup Series. The following year was a repeat, earning four more WKA championships. In 1999, Hunter-Reay was selected as the Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out winner, leading him to his career in open-wheel racing. RHR competed in the PRI All-Stars Karting Classic in 2008 and 2009.