May 2, 2013
Kyle O'Gara is a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, but he missed classes May 2 to get an education in another area.
O'Gara, from the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove, fulfilled a lifelong dream by turning laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Firestone Indy Lights Open Test.
O'Gara, 18, will make his Firestone Indy Lights debut in the Firestone Freedom 100 on 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.
Click it: Combined Open Test session results
"The Schmidt Peterson boys have prepared a great car for me," said O'Gara, who was second-quick overall. "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 was 189.742 mph on the 2.5-mile oval. 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 SportsEvents.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 at IMS, including series points leader Carlos Munoz. Andretti Autosport's Zach Veach was quickest during the day of on-track activity.
Munoz is attempting a "double" at IMS, racing for Andretti Autosport in the Firestone Freedom 100 and the 97th Indianapolis 500 on 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 past two Firestone Indy Lights races, at Barber Motorsports Park and the Streets of Long Beach. Munoz's fastest lap during the test was 189.249 mph (third overall).
"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."