Matt McMurry received the birthday present most kids dream of when Belardi Auto Racing announced Nov. 23 - the day before the Arizona resident's birthday - that they have signed the 14-year-old to compete in the full 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda season.
"We've had the chance to test Matt on road courses and ovals during the last six months, and we're very impressed with his maturity, approach and outright speed for someone so young," said team owner Brian Belardi. "He had never set foot in a USF2000 car before the first test and was running extremely competitive times. With Matt having never seen an oval before, it was certainly impressive to see him lay down times matching or better than that of qualifying of the 2012 Night Before the 500."
McMurry, who is supported by The Amazing Flameless Candle, Team USA supporter NameSilo, OMP and Wine Country Motorsports, scored seven podiums in the Skip Barber Racing Series over the summer despite being at least two years the junior of the next youngest competitor. He also had two trifectas (pole, win and fastest lap) over the summer in Formula Mazda events held by the Bondurant School for High Performance Driving, and will soon compete in the Skip Barber shoot out for its top drivers at Road Atlanta next month.
"Matt is one of the most calm and methodical drivers I have had the pleasure to work with," said fulltime coach Gerardo Bonilla, former Skip Barber National Champion, USF2000 series driver coach and Mazda factory driver. "Matt is a tremendous listener, he loves engineering and understanding the car's dynamics, he soaks everything in, and then he just goes about his business."
Along with Bonilla, McMurry has benefitted from an array of mentors and teachers, including five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Johnny O'Connell; the pair has been training near-monthly in Corvettes. Additionally, Bob and Pat Bondurant allowed McMurry to attend their famed four-day driving school as a sixth grader in the school's Corvette C6s and Formula Mazdas. Meanwhile, Matt's father, Chris McMurry, has around 70 prototype races to his name in The American Le Mans Series, the former European Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including a Sebring class win.
"I have so much to be thankful for," McMurry said. "So many people have lent a hand, their knowledge and their encouragement. Alan Rudolph at Bondurant really taught me how to drive when I was five years old. All of my friends have been amazing, and my family has been behind me the whole way. I'm really looking forward to this next step with Belardi; they really showed that they can win."
Belardi Auto Racing welcomes McMurry as the team's first USF2000 driver signed for the 2013 season, while so far Irishman Peter Dempsey holds the sole seat of the team's Firestone Indy Lights squad.