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American Coleman Well-Versed on What It Means to Fly at IMS

As the only American in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship Challenger Cup, Kevin Coleman has an appreciation for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That’s why the 26-year-old Louisiana native couldn’t be more excited about racing at this weekend’s inaugural Red Bull Air Race at IMS.

“I’m a huge motorsports fan, a huge NASCAR fan and Indy fan since I was a little kid,” Coleman said during a publicity event last week. “I keep up with NASCAR the most. I was a Jeff Gordon fan as a kid. Being around all of the Europeans and the other pilots from around the world, I’ve been talking how great Indianapolis Motor Speedway is. People don’t understand outside of this country or in this motorsport how much Indianapolis Motor Speedway means to this community and motorsports in general.

“I want to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I want to kiss those bricks and drink the milk. As a Jeff Gordon fan as a kid, I know he won the inaugural Brickyard 400, so it would mean a lot to me personally not just from winning a race but it would be really special to win the first one here, from knowing the history and knowing just how special this place is.”

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is divided into two classifications, the Master class with the world’s most elite pilots, and the Challenger Cup feeder series. Coleman is tied for second in points as a Challenger Cup series rookie and youngest competitor entering this event. He has one victory and two seconds, and the top three results after seven races count toward the top six pilots qualifying for the final. This weekend’s event is the sixth stop in the series with the finale in Las Vegas, Oct. 15-16.

Practice begins Friday with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

Pilots compete on a track above IMS from a standing start, negotiating air pylons to finish three laps around the course. Just like with the race cars, it’s all about speed. The quickest times advance in the competition. The fastest racers are typically separated by fractions of seconds, which makes striking those pylons and being assessed a penalty a crucial error.

Coleman has wanted to fly since he was born. His father flew in air shows, so Coleman attended his first event at 6 weeks old and grew up playing with model planes.

“I started getting lessons when I was 10,” he said. “In 2003, I was 13, that’s when the Red Bull Air Race started. I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do that. That’s what I want to do.’ I started my professional flying career when I was 16, flying aerobatic competitions and air shows. For the last five years, Red Bull started recruiting me and I’m in my rookie season now.”

He’s a born racer, beginning with go-karts on dirt tracks at 11. But competing in airplanes is what it’s all about. Coleman pilots an Extra 330LX.

“I’m completely living the dream,” he said. “This really is my passion. This is literally all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was 3 years old, fly airplanes like this. I wake up every day happy because I’m one of the very few people in the world that get to do what they love every single day.”

His girlfriend is also a pilot, so everyone understands his passion.

“The only person that really doesn’t like it but is getting more on board with it is my mom,” Coleman said. “She’s getting more and more on board and less and less nervous every air race I do. My parents are super supportive. They’ve come to every race so far this year, all around the world.”

Those who know Coleman best acknowledge what he’s always said: “Flying and racing is in my DNA. I was just born to do it.”

He flew up to Indianapolis on his private airplane.

“Even when I’m just flying cruising around, there’s just something about being up there and looking down and seeing the clouds,” Coleman said. “It’s where I’m comfortable. I’m more comfortable in the air than I am on the ground.”

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