The Racing Capital
of the World
May 02, 2013 | By Tom Surber
Kyle O’Gara is a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, but he missed class Thursday, May 2 to get an education in another area.
O’Gara, from the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove, Ind., fulfilled a lifelong dream by turning laps Thursday, May 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Firestone Indy Lights test. O’Gara, 18, will make his Firestone Indy Lights debut in the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 24 in a car fielded by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
“It feels great,” O’Gara said. “It’s something we’ve been working toward my whole career. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was running around about 2 years old out here, so it feels great to finally get on track.
“Everything’s going really well so far. The Schmidt Peterson boys have prepared a great car for me today. I’ve gained a lot of respect for the track. I’ve always had that respect for the track, but getting out on it I’ve gained even more.”
O’Gara’s learning curve was accelerated by his sister-in-law, Indianapolis 500 veteran Sarah Fisher, who offered guidance during the test.
“It’s incredible,” O’Gara said. “She’s been there, she’s been in your shoes, and she can always help. Today she’s been helping me on entry into the corner, exit out of the corner, smoothness, she’s been there and is an incredible help.”
O’Gara’s fastest lap in the morning session was 186.981 mph. It’s big jump in speed from his prior experience in USAC open-wheel cars and karts, but he proved to be a quick study.
“He’s young, so he has time,” Fisher said. “He has a tendency to adapt really quickly to different cars, and he’s run USAC cars, sprint cars and go-karts, and he learns very quickly, and that’s very encouraging in bringing him here for his first race.”
Said O’Gara: “I think I’m adjusting pretty well. I race USAC Midgets normally, so it’s only my second time in an Indy Lights car. I’m trying to work on feedback a little bit with my engineer, Mike, but everything is going really well.”
Racing in the Firestone Freedom 100 will start a memorable weekend for O’Gara. He will race at IMS in front of 600 Roncalli classmates courtesy of sponsor SportEvents.com. The next morning, O’Gara will join his classmates to receive his Roncalli diploma at graduation. A few hours later, he will race in the Night Before the 500 USAC Mopar National Midget Championship race at Lucas Oil Raceway.
O’Gara hopes a strong run in the Firestone Freedom 100 could lead to more Firestone Indy Lights starts this season.
“Right now it’s just a one-shot deal,” O’Gara said. “We’re going to have the Freedom 100 and we’ll see how that goes, and if that goes well, hopefully we’ll see if we can convince a couple more sponsors to jump on and continue the season.”
Ten other drivers tested Thursday at IMS, including points leader Carlos Munoz.
Munoz is attempting a “double” at IMS, racing for Andretti Autosport in the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 24 and the 97th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26. He finished second in the Firestone Freedom 100 last year and is making his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the “500.”
“The only reason I did that (double) is that more or less it’s a different weekend,” Munoz said.
“Qualifying for the Indy 500 is one week before, and the races are not on the same day. I’ve been in an IndyCar and I know the track, so that’s why I did it. Now it’s going to be tough for sure to go from one car to another, but I think I am comfortable and I have confidence that I can be really quick in each car.”
That confidence is boosted by winning the last two Firestone Indy Lights races, at Barber Motorsports Park and the Streets of Long Beach. Munoz’s fastest lap this morning was 188.544 mph.
“So far so good, but we have a long, long way to go,” Munoz said. “Now we have to change our minds to the ovals because we have four straight oval races, and I’m quite confident.”
Munoz, from Bogota, Colombia, also looks to fellow countryman Juan Pablo Montoya for inspiration in the Indianapolis 500. Formula One, CART and NASCAR race winner Montoya won his only Indy 500 start, in 2000.
“I saw the race of Juan Pablo Montoya when he won the Indy 500 in his first year, so there’s more pressure on me because he won in his first year and is a Colombian,” Munoz said. “So for me to run in the Indianapolis 500, it’s a dream come true to run in the biggest race in the world. It’s really special to me, and I have to give 100 percent because not a lot of drivers have this opportunity.”
2013 Indianapolis 500 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 26 at IMS.
Race Day ticket prices start at just $30. Fans can buy tickets online at www.ims.com/tickets, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or by visiting the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
Children 12 and under will be receive free general admission to any IMS event in 2013 when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket holder.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.