Rookies Speed into the Big Easy

By on April 10, 2015

 

 

Stefano Coletti  (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Stefano Coletti (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

St. Petersburg, Fla.– This year was my second year having the opportunity to cover the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with Rocket Sports and Entertainment. This year was a bit different than the last, because I craved the chance to get really involved and write my own story. I got to thinking, what would be the best topic for me to cover? And I sparked an idea, I thought about the rookie Indy Car drivers and how crazy it is that most of them are close to the same age as I am. My brain blew up with questions, how do they become so successful racing at such a young age?  Why did they start racing and what age? So many questions that I know I could never answer, so I turned to the professionals.

 

I got the incredible opportunity to interview three out of four of the rookie Indy Car drivers for the 2015 season in St. Petersburg before the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Stefano Coletti, Francesco Dracone and Sage Karam.

 The Rookie Line Up

Francesco Dracone is from Turin, Italy and is thirty-one years old and drives for Dale Coyne Racing. Dracone explained what inspired him to become a driver, “Well that’s a very good question, when I was 8 or 9 and I was watching the tele (television) at the time everyone got crazy for Formula One, and from the other end on the local tele I saw the Indy 500. I saw the type of competition they had at the time.”   I asked what it means to finally get a shot at Indy Car.  “Well, its the best series to me that you can drive for, it was my dream since 2010 when I had the opportunity to drive two races… and its just great being back.” Then I wanted to see what he thought about being older than the average rookie, what advantage does he think it gives him. “Hah well, it depends what you mean for average. I’d say the others are in their twenties, well you can just say I’m old that’s fine. Well they get the advantage of being young and knowing all the circuits and in my case I’m old and I know none so I don’t know if you could say it is an advantage or disadvantage.” Then I thought he is from Italy so why not find out if he was a formula one fan growing up? He said, “Yes, I was but I kept a big eye open toward Indy car as well. To me they are fifty-fifty.”

 

Francesco Dracone (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Francesco Dracone with RSEN’s Brennie in the Dale Coyne Racing transport (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

 

Sage Karam is a twenty-one year oldfrom Nazareth, Pennsylvania and drives for Chip Ganassi Racing. Karam explains at what age he started racing,  “I started go karting when I was four years old and I started racing cars when I was thirteen.”  I always wonder who each driver looks up to, when asked who his role model was Karam said,  “Id probably say over all on and off the track my role model was Dan Wheldon,  just cause of the way he interacted with fans and stuff and the time he gave me I’d say he was probably my ultimate role model and also Dario Franchitti because I was a big fan of him growing up and now he’s my driver coach so its kind of cool how that worked out.” Wonder what it means to be a rookie,  Sage says, “Well I guess you gotta do it at some point, be a rookie right? It’s a cool feeling to be doing it with a team like Chip Ganassi Racing and I want to get through it as painless as possible and get the rookie season out of the way.” Now, why not ask a silly question, I thought.  If your eight-year-old self could see you today what do you think he would say? Sage said, “He’d probably say wow we made it! We accomplished what we wanted to. We wanted to drive in the Indianapolis 500, its always been my dream as a little kid and going to the Indianapolis 500 when I was eight years old yah know.  I wanted to be one of those 300 cars that went scramming down to the green flag and I was one of those guys last year, that’s probably what I would say that I made it.” Last but not least, Karam shares what his biggest goal this season,  “First goal to get rookie of the year and second goal I really want to get in the top ten of the standings.”  Sounds like good aspirations to me.

 

Sage Karam and Brennie (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Sage Karam and Brennie (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Stefano Coletti is from La Colle, Monaco which is a ward of Monaco with less than 3000 people.  Coletti is twenty-six years old and is a driver for KV Racing Technology. Coletti shares what age he began racing,  “I started go karting at seven and started racing at nine.” Now, Coletti tells what it means to be a rookie, “Well, I haven’t been a rookie for a long time…It’s a bit weird but let’s say that I have been looking at these guys for years like Montoya (meaning Juan Pablo Montoya, who ironically won the the 2015 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg) was one of the best F1 drivers back then so to be racing against him and on the same track as him is amazing so I have also a great teammate which has a lot of experience and can teach me a lot.  I can see that you need a lot of experience in this series to go forward and I’m happy that I have a such a teammate that I can learn from.” Coletti explains who his role model is. “My role model?  That’s a good question.  I have no idea…in racing? Uh Denardie, not really because of his racing but what he accomplished after his accident I think that was the biggest lesson you could learn from a man.” Of course I had to ask him the same weird question, if your eight-year-old self could see you today what do you think he would say? “Well I don’t know what he could think, I was quite dumb at that age but no I would say you’re almost there but not yet.” Then, Coletti explains his biggest goal this season, “First of all to be best rookie, I guess that’s the main goal for all the rookies, I wanna win races and make this guy proud so if we can finish in the top seven in the championship that would be great.” Last but not least I wanted to know who  his biggest competitor is>  “My teammate (Sébastien Bourdais) he’s got the same car as me and I gotta beat him.”

 

Stefano Coletti and Brennie (Rodney Meyering /RSEN)

Stefano Coletti and Brennie (Rodney Meyering /RSEN)

The fourth rookie I did not get a chance to speak with is Gabby Chavez,  a twenty-one year old from Bogota, Columbia. Chavez enters this years Indy car series as a rookie and was the 2014 Indy Lights Champ.   He races for Bryan Herta Autosport.

 How the rookies fared in the 2015  Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:  

Francesco Dracone finished twenty-third, completing seventy laps dropping out due to mechanical issues. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Francesco Dracone finished twenty-third, completing seventy laps dropping out due to mechanical issues. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Sage Karam finished nineteenth one lap down. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Sage Karam finished nineteenth one lap down. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Stefano Coletti finished twentieth one lap back. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Stefano Coletti finished twentieth one lap back. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Gabby Chaves finished seventeenth on the lead lap. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Gabby Chaves finished seventeenth on the lead lap. (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

NewOrleans2015It was really great to get to meet the rookie drivers of the 2015 season just before the first race of the season. I planned to follow the Indy circuit this year, and now I will be monitoring how the four rookies will fare. This weekend Indy Car takes it’s show to Avondale, Louisiana for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.  The NOLA Motorsports Park in 15 miles from the famed French Quarter.  The race is set for 2:30 pm eastern time,  Sunday April, 12th and will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.

(My informational side thought…After meeting all of the drivers, going against my journalist nature to pick favorites,  I will be rooting for Stefano Coletti this season.)

Sage Karam (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Sage Karam (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

Karam takes the turn on three wheels (Rodney Myering / RSEN)

Karam takes the turn on three wheels (Rodney Myering / RSEN)

RSEN's Brennie and Dale Coyne Racing's Francesco Dracone (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

RSEN’s Brennie and Dale Coyne Racing’s Francesco Dracone (Rodney Meyering / RSEN)

 2015  INDY CAR SCHEDULE

Sun, Mar 29
3:00 PM ET
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Streets Of St. Petersburg
Sun, Apr 12
3:00 PM ET
Grand Prix of Louisiana
Nola Motorsports Park
NBCSN
Sun, Apr 19
4:00 PM ET
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Streets Of Long Beach
NBCSN
Sun, Apr 26
3:00 PM ET
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park
NBCSN
Sat, May 9
3:30 PM ET
Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
Sun, May 24
Noon ET
Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sat, May 30
3:30 PM ET
Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit – Race 1
Raceway At Belle Isle Park
Sun, May 31
3:30 PM ET
Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit – Race 2
Raceway At Belle Isle Park
Sat, Jun 6
8:00 PM ET
Firestone 600
Texas Motor Speedway
NBCSN
Sun, Jun 14
3:00 PM ET
Honda Indy Toronto
Streets Of Toronto
NBCSN
Sat, Jun 27
4:00 PM ET
MAVTV 500
Auto Club Speedway
NBCSN
Sun, Jul 12
5:00 PM ET
ABC Supply Wisconsin 250
The Milwaukee Mile
NBCSN
Sat, Jul 18
8:00 PM ET
Iowa Corn Indy 300
Iowa Speedway
NBCSN
Sun, Aug 2
1:30 PM ET
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
NBCSN
Sun, Aug 23
2:00 PM ET
Pocono IndyCar 500
Pocono Raceway
NBCSN
Sun, Aug 30
4:00 PM ET
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Sonoma
NBCSN
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