The ultimate goal: TaG Senior Class driver Plowman has IndyCar hopes
There is nothing like taking a swig of milk after winning the Indianapolis 500.
It’s the pinnacle for any IndyCar driver, but for many of them, that dream started when they were racing a go-kart.
Some IndyCar League drivers are in town this weekend racing or coaching a team in the Superkarts! USA (SKUSA) SummerNationals at Grand Junction Motor Speedway.
Arie Luyendyk Jr., 29, who is originally from the Netherlands, and has tasted the IndyCar League, competed in the Shifter 2 Class on Saturday. His father, Arie Luyendyk Sr., is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
Junior finished in 10th place, unofficially, after a mechanical breakdown in the second heat put him in the 20th pole position.
“I love the sport,” Luyendyk Jr. said. “It’s the rawest form of motorsports. I think that’s why you see a lot of pro drivers do this. Pretty much every IndyCar driver has a go-kart.”
“A lot of these young drivers are really good,” Luyendyk said.
He started racing karts 20 years ago.
Luyendyk raced in the Indianapolis 500 in 2006. He raced in the IndyCar Lights League for a few years and took second in the points one year. He’s looking to get back into IndyCar racing again.
“Shifter karting is the perfect therapy for a driver that doesn’t have a (IndyCar) ride,” Luyendyk said. “You get your aggression out and the racing is pretty good.”
One of his teammates, Martin Plowman, is racing in the Touch-and-Go (TaG) Senior Class.
His ultimate goal, though, is to race in the IndyCar League and the Indianapolis 500. He’ll get his chance. The 23-year-old, originally from England, will be joining the IndyCar League Series in three weeks.
“I’ve been trying to find a way to break into the series,” Plowman said. “Nowadays, it’s not just about talent, you’ve got to bring a sponsorship package with you.
“Teams don’t have funding anymore to hire drivers.”
Plowman said an announcement will be made next week of his sponsor, but said he is excited about the sponsor and racing IndyCar.
“Karting is the best school to keep your skills sharp,” Plowman said. “This is where we learn to race hard. You look at the kart and the IndyCar and it’s not even close, but the way you drive them and the mechanics, there is a lot of similarities there.”
Phil Giebler, the 2007 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, started racing in karts against the likes of Buddy Rice, another IndyCar driver.
Giebler is coaching drivers on his team this weekend.
“You go back to your passion,” Giebler said. “It’s really in the driver’s hands at this level. It’s really the driver, trying to make their machine work for them. There is a lot of hands-on action. In an IndyCar, you have a lot of engineers, your main job is to drive. The guys that drive here, turn out to be good professional drivers.”
Bryan Herta, a former IndyCar driver and current team owner of Herta Autosports, agreed. He is working with his 11-year-old son in the Touch-and-Go Cadet race class.
“Everybody has this perception of go-karts like you’re going on summer vacation to the Poconos Mountains, pay $5 and go around this track,” Herta said. “This is clearly not that. This is very sophisticated. We like running SKUSA because it is very professional.
“We have a great time. This is my weekend off. When I’m at an IndyCar race, I’m working. Here, we just have a good time. When I was a kid, this is what I did with my dad.”