Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Archive for the ‘ Unsung Hero ’ Category

Indy Lights Unsung Hero: Dan Clarke

Posted November 12, 2010 at 3:36 pm Indy Lights, Unsung Hero Comments

Dan Clarke(Photo:Ryan/JuniorOpenWheelTalent.com)

Name: Dan Clarke
Born: Mexborough, Yorkshire – England
Date of Birth: Oct. 4, 1983

Website: http://www.danclarke.me/

Current Series:
Firestone Indy Lights

Final Standings: 7th

Average Finish
(1st Half of Season): 8
Average Finish
(2nd Half of Season): 8.67

Previous Experience:
Started Karting: Age 10
Karting Experience: 17 years
Car Experience: 9 years

  • Formula Ford – 2002
  • British Formula Ford – 2003
  • Formula Ford/Formula Renault – 2004
  • Formula 3 – 2005
  • Champ Car – 2006
  • Champ Car – 2007
  • A1GP – ’08-’09
  • Indy Lights – 2010

Why he was chosen:

In 2008, Dan Clarke feared the worst. His Champ Car career was over and his funding had run dry. Even for the optimistic, his future in racing looked bleak.

Fortunately for Clarke, former Champ Car owner Derrick Walker had other plans and decided to field the talented Brit in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights series. It would be difficult for anyone to look at the duo’s 2010 season and call it unsuccessful. It was precisely the opposite.

Clarke jumped into an Indy Lights car this spring at Barber Motorsports Park — after missing the first round — and looked right at home; he finished seventh after qualifying 11th. That was just a glimpse of what was yet to come. In just his third race of the year, and second oval race ever, Clarke crossed the stripe fourth in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He started the race 10th.

He was just getting started. At the midpoint of the season, Clarke nailed down a runner-up finish at Toronto. From there he logged four top-five finishes in his next five races. He would have secured a string of five-straight top-five’s had his alternator not malfunctioned and drained the battery of his No. 40 entry at Infineon. The DNF changed what was likely to be a fourth-place finish, into a 13th.  He closed out the year with a top-10 at Kentucky and a DNF at Homestead-Miami, due to contact with another competitor.

With his raw speed and maturity evident to even the casual observer, it’s possible  — funding permitting — that Clarke will graduate to IndyCar for 2011. But, returning to Lights and chasing the 2011 crown shouldn’t be ruled out for the talented 27-year-old.

Related Reading: 2010 Unsung Hero Awards

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Tatiana Calderon
(Photo: Ryan – JuniorOpenWheelTalent.com)

Name: Tatiana Calderon
Born: Bogota, Colombia
Date of Birth: Mar. 10, 1993

Website: www.tatianacalderon.com

Current Series:
Star Mazda Championship

Final Standings: 10th

Average Finish
(1st Half of Season): 13.67
Average Finish
(2nd Half of Season): 10.14

Previous Experience:
Started Karting: Age 12
Karting Experience: 5 years
Car Experience: 2-years

  • Skip Barber Karting Scholarship
  • Radical European Masters- 2009
  • Star Mazda- 2010

Why she was chosen:

Last March, at Sebring International Raceway, Tatiana Calderon jumped right into the deep end of car racing without a hint of reticence. She didn’t have much open-wheel car experience, but she committed to the 2010 season with Juncos Racing; the same team who had been overseeing her development behind the wheel of a go-kart.

While one might argue (myself included) that the USF2000 National Championship might have been a better choice for her development in 2010, Calderon certainly showcased her ability behind-the-wheel of a Star Mazda car as the season wore on. She qualified a measly 22nd out of 23 cars in her first race. In the race, she finished 20th, three laps shy and almost five seconds-a-lap off eventual winner Tristan Vautier’s fast time.

Graduating straight to Star Mazda was a huge leap.

Calderon wouldn’t be discouraged easily, though, and continued to work hard developing her skills. It wasn’t long before her hard work and persistence paid off. The 17-year-old Colombian secured her first top-10 finish in just her third Star Mazda race. She started 16th at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and drove through the field to finish an impressive ninth. In her first six races, her ninth-place result stood as the only top-10 and she had two DNFs; bumping her average finish down to 13.67. Still, she was showing promise and an insatiable hunger to improve each time she was in the cockpit.

She made some big gains at the midpoint of the season, starting with another ninth-place finish during the second race at New Jersey Motorsports Park. She landed inside the top-10 on four occasions in the next five races; including a career best seventh-place finish at Autobahn in late July. Off the track she continued to work hard as well, devoting to a strenuous fitness program under the guidance of Jim Leo and PitFit. The results were evident at the checkered flag. She finished every race during the second half of the season and increased her average-finish by over three spots.

With one full season of Star Mazda competition under her belt, Calderon has made it to the shallow end of the pool. Watch for bright things from the young Colombian in 2011, especially if she returns to Star Mazda.

Related Reading: 2010 Unsung Hero Awards

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Chris Livengood
(Photo: Janice Eakin/F2000 Championship)

Name: Chris Livengood
Hometown: Indiana, Pa.
Date of Birth: Nov. 18, 1985

Website: http://www.chrislivengood.net

Current Series:
F2000 Championship Series

Final Standings: 8th

Average Finish
(1st Half of Season): 12
Average Finish
(2nd Half of Season): 12.86

Previous Experience:
Started Karting: Age 8
Karting Experience: 17 years
Car Experience: 1-year F2000 Championship

Why he was chosen:

Some drivers have a difficult time making the transition from karts to cars. When Chris Livengood jumped into an F2000 car this spring, he knew he would have to learn the nuances of a Van Diemen — not to mention the requirement of learning new tracks — and change his driving style slightly from the one he had grown so accustomed to in the karting ranks. What he didn’t know, however, is how quickly and easily the transition would come.

Livengood secured a top-10 finish in his very first F2000 Championship outing under Pinto power at Virginia International Raceway. Later in the season, he switched to a Zetec powerplant.  By the mid-way point of 2010, he locked down a runner-up finish at Watkins Glen. And then, to cap the season off, the 24-year-old won his first race during the final stop on the 2010 calendar. He suffered three DNFs during the second half of the year which significantly scarred his average finish. Without the bad luck, the numbers would be much different. Of the races he finished during the latter part of his freshman campaign, all were within the top-10, with three inside the top-five. Livengood ended his 2010 season by touring Mid-Ohio quicker than 23 other drivers. Watch for even more speed from the Pennsylvania native in 2011.

Related Reading: 2010 Unsung Hero Awards

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Matthew Powers
(Photo: Eric McCombs/USF2000)

Name: Matt Powers
Born: California
Date of Birth: June 2, 1991

Website: Currently unavailable

Current Series:
USF2000 National Championship

Final Standings: 8th

Average Finish
(1st Half of Season): 7.25
Average Finish
(2nd Half of Season): 8.5

Previous Experience:
Started Karting: Age 12
Karting Experience: 7 years
Car Experience: 2 years

  • Jim Russell School – 2008
  • Skip Barber Karting Scholarship – 2009
  • USF2000 National Championship -partial season 2010

Why he was chosen:

This season marked the first year of actual car racing for 19-year-old Matthew Powers. The California native showed tremendous development this season on a slim budget. He ran eight races with Liberty Motorsports.

While his average finish in the first half of the year comes out to 7.25 and his average finish in the second half of the season at 8.5, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Powers finished three races inside the top-five, missing the podium by one spot on each occasion. He had two DNFs during the second half of the year, which significantly impacted his average finish. Both DNFs were mechanical, which is rare for a rookie driver and a solid reflection on his race craft.

The highlight of Powers’ 2010 season came at Autobahn where he nabbed back-to-back fourth-place finishes. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the Autobahn stop was just his second weekend of car racing. In August, I wrote “watch for big things from this driver.” I stand by that statement.

Powers is currently working on putting together the necessary funding for a full USF2000 National Championship campaign in 2011. If he’s able to secure a good ride, you can expect him to be a front runner throughout the season.

Related Reading: 2010 Unsung Hero Awards

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Skip Barber Nat'l Unsung Hero: Nick Andries

Posted November 5, 2010 at 8:43 am Skip Barber, Unsung Hero Comments

Nick Andries (80) Wins at Road Atlanta
(Photo: Kelly Brouillet/Skip Barber Racing)

Name: Nick Andries
Nationality: American
Date of Birth: Nov. 19, 1990

Website: http://www.nickandries.com

Current Series:
Skip Barber National (full)
Star Mazda Championship

Final Standings: 6th

Average Finish
(1st Half of Season): 4.43
Average Finish
(2nd Half of Season): 7

Previous Experience:
Started Karting:  Age 5
Karting Experience: 14 years
Car Experience:  2 Years (Skip Barber and Star Mazda)

Why he was chosen:
Nick won the 2009 Skip Barber Summer Series and made the jump to the National program in 2010. He did an excellent job of diversifying his skills this season by competing in both Skip Barber and Star Mazda.  He ran 10 Star Mazda races this year and earned the Clutch Performer Award for earning the most points in the final six races. Perhaps the most admirable move he made, in regards to his development, was continuing his Skip Barber program rather than just moving into a Star Mazda car full-time when the opportunity presented itself.

The numbers posted above don’t tell the whole story on Andries’ development. During the second half of the Skip Barber National season, he was plagued with two bad results skewing his average finish.  During the final lap of Round 10 at NJMP, Andries attempted a pass for the lead while going into Turn 1 and contact with another competitor sent him back to 10th. He improved seven positions in the very last race of the season to earn his first career victory.  Additionally, he set the fastest lap of the race three times during the second half of the Skip Barber National season.

The Florida resident recently completed an Indy Lights test with Andersen Racing, but he’ll likely commit to a full-year of Star Mazda competition in 2011. If he’s able to put all his focus on one series, you can expect a marked improvement in his overall results. If you haven’t already noticed his talent behind-the-wheel, you will soon.

Related Reading: Unsung Hero Awards

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2010 Unsung Hero Awards

Posted November 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm Unsung Hero Comments

Unsung Hero Awards: Over the next few days I will be selecting an ‘Unsung Hero’ from each of the North American series covered here:  Skip Barber National, USF2000 National Championship, F2000 Championship, Star Mazda  and the Indy Lights series.

I will post a profile piece on each of the chosen recipients.  So make sure to stop back.

Standard Disclaimer:  Several drivers are worthy recipients of this award.  If you’re not selected as an Unsung Hero it doesn’t mean you weren’t deserving.  The point of this write-up is to introduce readers to a few drivers that were impressive in 2010, but failed to receive a lot of press.  Obviously, there is more than one driver who fits into that category.

Selection Process: In order to keep things in perspective, I’ve chosen a driver who finished around the Top-Five or worse in the final point standings in a series that averaged around 10 entries/race.  For series that averaged closer to 20 entries/race or better than 10, I’ve selected a driver who finished around the Top-10 or worse in the final standings.

As the profiles are completed, I will link to each below.  Enjoy.
_____________

Unsung Hero

Skip Barber National- Nick Andries
USF2000 National Championship- Matthew Powers
F2000 Championship Series- Chris Livengood
Star Mazda Championship- Tatiana Calderon
Indy Lights- Dan Clarke

Related Reading: 2009 Unsung Hero Awards

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