E.J. Viso makes it a priority to watch a portion of both Pro Mazda Championship races at Houston, frequently checking the lap monitor in the Andretti Autosport pit to gauge the progress of a particular driver.
Viso, who also competed on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn circuit at Reliant Park in the two 90-lap IZOD IndyCar Series races, is carrying the banner for protégé Diego Ferreira through Team Viso Venezuela. The initiative, loosely started about seven years ago and solidified in the past two years, promotes bringing young talent to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system with the aid of Venezuelan supporters.
“I come from a beautiful country and to give back energy and to help talent coming from there, to help someone be the next generation star is a dream,” says Viso with a nod to National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia and Oriol Servia of Spain are other Hispanics competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“We’ve been through many political, financial difficulties, but I’ve never let go of the love for my country and I’m a big supporter,” continues Viso, who drives the Team Venezuela/PDVSA/CITGO car for Andretti Autosport. “I am a lover of my country and, in a way, I think that my country feels that and that’s the way it thinks back at me. This is why my career will be 23 years of consecutive racing. This is saying that we’ve been doing something right.”
Ferreira, 19, finished second in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires standings for Juncos Racing. Viso also is representing countrymen Camilo Schmidt and Bruno Palli, both of whom competed in Pro Mazda in 2012, in addition to Diego Borelli and Sebastian Fernandez, who are competing in karting in Europe. There’s also an indirect association with Jorge Goncalvez, who is sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights standings heading into the season finale Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway.
“In a way, I’m even doing this more for my country than the kids,” Viso says. “Don’t get me wrong, they are youngsters coming up who love racing. I see it differently as the future of my country and I see my country as the place that I love. I see giving back to my country will be through them, so I want to teach them the fundamentals and give them all the coaching and ideas I can. I’m pretty sure they’ll go further.”
Viso, who’s in his sixth IZOD IndyCar Series season and made his 100th Indy car start in Race 2 at Houston, has a two-fold goal relating to the program: own an all-Venezuelan INDYCAR team and have a race in his homeland.
“Right now, racing has grown in interest a lot in Venezuela. We have a driver in INDYCAR, a driver in Formula One and pretty much a driver in every category,” he says. “The racing is growing, but even a decade ago when there wasn’t anyone in INDYCAR or Formula One, my country was still a big follower of racing. They understand racing and I think it’s in their blood.
“My dream is to put a race in my country. The ideas are there, the intention is there. I’m in a country where things fluctuate a little bit more than expected, but it’s something we can do still.”