MRTI Oval Summit Panel

There are a lot of questions a young driver has as he approaches his or her first oval experience.

Thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy oval clinic, young drivers on the path to the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, have a chance to get advice and tips from a panel of people who know it’s more than just turning left.

Arie Luyendyk at MRTI Oval Summit“Arie (Luyendyk) was saying that when he took his rookie test here at Indy, that Mario Andretti told him, ‘This place can bite you. Don’t screw up,’” said Beaux Barfield, the IZOD IndyCar Series race director and a member of the panel of experts who answered questions from drivers. “ For these guys to have the expertise available to them from Sarah (Fisher) and Arie, Josef (Newgarden) and Johnny (Unser) is unheard of. I wish I had something similar when I was coming up as a driver.”

The program, a comprehensive introduction to oval track racing, was held in advance of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Pro Mazda Championship oval test at Lucas Oil Raceway Park on May 11.

“I love the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Josef Newgarden, the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion and IZOD IndyCar Series driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. “It’s a platform that worked for me and I just want to see it work for as many young, talented future drivers that it can. If I can help in any way to make that transition a little bit easier then I’m all for it.

“This is one the first times I’ve been included on a panel like this. To be asked to come out and give my opinion on things is really awesome. That’s a tremendous honor in my opinion and I just love to do it. I love to give my experiences and opinions that have been taught to me from the type people like Arie (Luyendyk) and Johnny (Unser). I just want to relay those messages to someone else.”

Added Fisher: “It gives them someone they can put a face to and reach out to if they have questions. There’s so much information that comes from an event like today, but if they can pull one or two things out of today and use that tomorrow (at their test), then that’s great. It’s hard to digest a whole two hour session of pointers from five really great individuals, but hopefully, they get one or two things and have a great day tomorrow.”


DANILO ESTRELLA (USF2000 driver for Belardi Auto Racing): “It’s very valuable because the panel are offering us their own experiences. Sometimes we think we are going the right direction, but we aren’t. With their advice we just confirm if we are doing the right things and no.  When I get in the car tomorrow, I’ll be able to know what I need to work on to be fast.”

SHELBY BLACKSTOCK (Pro Mazda driver for Andretti Autosport): “It’s good to have the knowledge of these guys coming in to tell us what they know. We’re definitely new to ovals. I raced (at Lucas Oil Raceway Park) last year and there’s still definitely a lot to learn. Even (IZOD IndyCar Series) drivers still have things to learn. I’m really happy that I came today.”

STEFAN RZADZINSKI (USF2000 driver for JDC Motorsports): “It’s huge for us, but especially for me because I’ve never been on an oval before. I was at the clinic and learned a lot from Bobby Rahal and the others. It’s really invaluable information. I remember making a lot of notes last year. You take all of that and remember (what you learned) today and finally get to apply it tomorrow. It’s all really good information and I can’t wait to get on track to try it. I think it will all start to make more sense after getting to do it. We’re really lucky to have opportunities like this.”

WYATT GOODEN (USF2000 driver for Afterburner Autosport): “To be able get as much information as we did today from all these people, who obviously have a lot of experience is really invaluable. It’s just one of the  many reasons I’m so happy to be part of this (program). You have all these legends telling you everything you need to know. Oval racing is what we’re going to be doing if you continue along this path, so it’s really good to get this information.”

MRTI Oval Summit - Josef Newgarden