Following two days of evaluation, Bobby Kelley emerged as the top driver among 10 karters invited to the inaugural Road to Indy scouting combine held at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla.
The invitees, while talented, were relatively callow in terms of car experience. For many, this was their first exposure to car racing. Aside from on-track activities, the group was exposed to business seminars, and evaluated in mock interviews.
Despite a rain delay on the opening day of competition all drivers were able to adapt to the USF2000 car prior to evaluation with the help of engineer Mike Reggio (Belardi Auto Racing) and driver coach Gerardo Bonilla. On the final day, the racers took to the track for a five-lap qualifying simulation with instructions to lock down one flying lap. Following qualifying, the drivers were sent back out for a 10-lap race simulation where they were judged on consistency.
The panel included Jeremy Shaw, Anders Krohn, John Doonan, and Tony George Jr. All four felt that Kelley had both speed and the ability to steadily hit his marks with ease.
“Bobby stood out among the participants in the scouting combine, and he quickly demonstrated his ability to get up to speed in a short period of time,” George said. “Bobby was not only consistent, but he was fast. We are excited to present him with this opportunity to compete in a USF2000 event this season. Hopefully this program will give him the experience he needs to progress his career into open-wheel racing.”
As a prize for winning the combine, Kelley, 19, who is a regular in the International Karting Federation (IKF), will compete in the season-opening USF2000 National Championship doubleheader on the Streets of St. Petersburg in March. It will mark his first open-wheel race.
Kelley has previously competed in three NASCAR S2 division races — featuring sportsman late model cars — logging a best finish of second at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Similar to his upcoming debut in the USF2000 ranks, Kelley’s ability to get behind the wheel of a stock car came as a prize for his performance in the Ron Sutton Winner’s Circle Shootout.
The Riverside, Calif., native adapted to the USF2000 car and Andersen RacePark circuit with relative ease and credits his adaptability to his time in go-karts.
“Karting helped me in many ways to prepare for the combine,” Kelley said. “The braking and accelerating points [in USF2000] were very similar to a kart. I believe the most difficult part of the combine was getting familiar with the grip level of the USF2000 car. The car could be misleading at times, but I was able to quickly adjust as I knew I did not have a lot of time to prove myself on the track to the judges. It was fun to see how far I could actually push the car.”
Make the jump to see the full list of drivers invited to the 2011 Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine.
Scouting Combine Entrant list
- Eastern Canada Karting Championship – Zachary Richard Robichon (Ottawa, Ontario)
- SKUSA Central States Challenge – Joe Ruch (Frankfort, IN)
- Heartland Sprint Series – Luke Waller (Owasso, OK)
- TaG World Championships – Jacob Kneuven (Sunwan, IN)
- United States Auto Club – Taylor Ferns (Shelby Township, MI)
- Florida Karting Championship Series – Eric Filgueiras (Cocoa, FL)
- Cal State Karting Series – Camden Geise (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
- World Karting Association – Ryan Stewart (St. Charles, IL)
- International Karting Federation – Bobby Kelley (Riverside, CA)
- Rotax – Nick Neri (Florida native-close to ARP)