American Made

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Daniel Herrington (Shawn Payne/IRL IndyCar Photo)

Daniel Herrington (Shawn Payne/IRL IndyCar Photo)

U.S.-Born Drivers On The Rise In Open-Wheel Ranks

An American presence in open- wheel racing has been decidedly sparse recently. No American won during the 2009 IndyCar Series season, and only two have raced in Formula One since 1993. However, with USF1’s intentions, and with IndyCar starting to better use its ladder system, that presence may finally be back on the rise. With that said, which young drivers are climbing up toward stardom? Here are five drivers looking to make waves on the international stage.

Daniel Herrington
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Birthday: July 12, 1986
Notable: Partial Indy Lights Schedule 2007-08 with a best finish of third (Watkins Glen, 2007)… seventh, 2009 Firestone Indy Lights
Web site: www.danielherrington.com

Daniel Herrington’s career started at 17 and, even though he is a native of North Carolina, he has never raced stock cars. “I interacted with sports car and formula car racing and made my contacts there. I never even made any contacts in Nascar,” Herrington stated.

Despite such a late start, his career has been on a rapid rise, reaching Indy Lights in 2007, with a pole and podium finish in his first race at New York’s Watkins Glen Int’l.

Funding issues made his efforts part time, but in 2009, he caught a break when newcomer Bryan Herta Autosport, a satellite outfit for Vision Racing, signed him. “We’ve got a really strong team, but it’s hard to come right in and compete,” said Herrington. “But the team was phenomenal, worked really hard and had success.”

Heading forward, the plan is to move up with the team, which is owned by former CART and IndyCar driver Bryan Herta. “A move to IndyCar and the Indy 500 in 2011 is the first goal. I want to be winning races, not just competing,” he stated. “It’s not easy, and it’s going to be hard work, but I think the team is strong and we can do it.”

John Edwards
Louisville, Ky.
Birthday: March 11, 1991
Notable: 2005 Red Bull Driver Search winner… 2008 Star Mazda Champion… 2009 Atlantic Champion
Web site: www.johnedwardsracing.com

With a natural inkling for racing, John Edwards became the youngest driver to race a car and win in the U.S. (age 12 in 2004).
In 2005, Edwards, then 14, jumped to Europe, racing in Formula Renault. His first year of competition was anything but easy, as his first drive shows.

“In my first session out, I was 1.5 seconds off the best time, which was good given that was my first race. But I was also P-38 of 38 drivers, so that was bad,” Edwards laughed as he recalled. Quick to learn, his second year saw three podiums and one win.

In 2007, Edwards landed in Atlantics, taking ninth overall, and one podium in Toronto. But he wasn’t satisfied, stepping backward into Star Mazda for 2008. “I knew it was a step back, but I wasn’t too happy with 2007, and I actually lost my Red Bull sponsorship that year,” he proclaimed. “I didn’t see it as the right move at first, but it fit better with our budget.” It worked perfectly. Edwards captured the Star Mazda championship, then returned to Atlantics with Newman Wachs Racing, capturing last year’s title.

If sponsorship can be secured, he and the team are looking to move into the IndyCar Series. “We need to work on sponsorship and funding for 2010,” he said. “We’re looking to move forward together and develop.”

Joel Miller
Fontana, Calif.
Birthday: May 10, 1988
Notable: 2007 Skip Barber National Series Champion… second, 2008 Star Mazda Championship… fifth, 2009 Star Mazda Championship
Web site: www.joelmillerracing.com

Plainly stated, Joel Miller loves racing. “I have a passion for the sport,” he said simply. “People get into karting and the formula ranks if there’s a passion. I’m a driver with a suit and helmet, so it’s a passion.”

After early success, Miller’s career faltered in 2003. A move to Formula Ford was thwarted when he was found too young to drive. A few missed races later, he lost his sponsorship. “I would say that was my first big hurdle,” he said. “I really had to dig deep.”

However, with gritty determination, he found the funding himself to keep racing. “I took it upon myself to find my own deal,” said the Californian. “I didn’t (want to) rely on my parents, who are busy enough running their own businesses.” Pave his own way he did; Miller secured the Jim Trueman Scholarship in 2005, along with a Skip Barber Scholarship in 2006, which he used to claim a Skip Barber title.

After two solid Star Mazda campaigns (second in 2008, fifth in 2009), Indy Lights is the next goal. “2010 will be a year of keeping my name out there,” he declared. “Indy Lights is the focus, but I’m also looking at Atlantics, Star Mazda and the American Le Mans Series.” Regardless, his goals are clear. “Hopefully…I’ll have an Indy Lights championship and…some wins in IndyCar and the Indy 500.”

Alexander Rossi
Nevada City, Calif.
Birthday: Sept. 25, 1991
Notable: Three karting championships… 2008 Formula BMW World/Americas Champion… 2009 International Formula Masters Rookie of the Year
Web site: www.alexanderrossi.com

Motivated by “an obsession with fast cars,” Alexander Rossi first stepped into a kart at the age of 10, with success nearly immediate. After claiming the Jim Russell Int’l Karting Championship in 2003, Rossi became the second youngest driver ever to race single seaters, placing fifth in a Skip Barber Western Series event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, at age 13.

In moving to cars, Rossi’s success has been tremendous. In 2008, he captured a pair of Formula BMW championships, in the U.S. and in Europe, and was the 2009 International Formula Master (a European series similar to Formula Three) rookie of the year.

However, he is far from satisfied. “Winning the Formula BMW titles was great, but my ultimate goal is winning in Formula One.”

A lofty goal, yes, but Rossi has his radar locked on an F-1 drive in 2010, though he also has a backup plan. “I am scheduled to test an F-1 car (this winter) with BMW Sauber/Qadbak (now Sauber F-1 team), as an audition for a Formula One drive. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll go into GP2 where we’re fifth in the (Asia Series) championship right now,” he explained. “But with GP2, we’ll have some work to do since there aren’t many rides with top teams.”

On the first day of his test, Rossi turned a fast lap of 1:20:227, seventh best among 12 drivers in a “Rookies Only” outing.

Conor Daly
Noblesville, Ind.
Birthday: Dec. 15, 1991
Notable: Two karting championships… 2008 Skip Barber National Champion… Ontario Formula Ford Rookie of the Year… Walter Hayes Trophy winner… third, 2009 Star Mazda Championship
Web site: www.conordaly.net

It’s surprising to hear that Conor Daly, son of Derek Daly, was inspired to race by someone else. “My cousin wanted to start racing, and asked my dad for help. I just tagged along, and then wanted to give it a try,” said the second-generation talent.

He captured a pair of karting titles in 2005, following them up with three victories in the WKA National events, including the Grand Nationals.

In 2008, Daly enjoyed an outstanding season. He captured the Skip Barber National Championship, rookie of the year in Ontario Formula Ford and the Walter Hayes Trophy for Formula Ford racing. “Skip Barber was interesting because drafting played such a big role. I had to learn how to position myself to win,” he offered. “In Formula Ford, I had to learn the technical side and how to work with engineers.” The Walter Hayes Trophy, though, was his proudest moment. “Walter Hayes was something incredible,” he elaborated. “I always dreamt of going to Europe, and that was one of the best moments of my career.”

After third place in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship, Daly looks to return to Europe, with F-1 being his goal. But he remains open to racing in the U.S. “My personal goal is to be in Europe,” he said. “I just tested there, with Formula Renault and Formula Masters. Maybe, I’ll also do some Indy Lights races to keep a presence here.”