The Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda and USF2000 seasons are over for 2010, but Andersen Racing is busy this week giving five drivers the opportunity to test cars on two different steps on the "Road to Indy" ladder series program at Sebring International Raceway.
Conor Daly, the 2010 titlist in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, and Nick Andries, who raced in the Skip Barber National series as well as selected events in Star Mazda this year, completed a half-day test yesterday in the team's Firestone Indy Lights cars.
Daly, who drove for Andersen Racing in the Star Mazda series in 2009, continued to build on what he learned yesterday with another day of Firestone Indy Lights testing today. Daly, 18, drove a Firestone Indy Lights car once before in a test conducted by Sam Schmidt Motorsports last month at Putnam Park in Mount Meridian, Ind.
"It was good; we learned a lot and improved the car quite a bit," said Daly Thursday afternoon after the Andersen Racing test. "It was great to work with the Andersen Racing team again; I enjoyed it. We did about 150 laps over the two days. It was all clean. From my perspective it was very productive.
"I have no idea what I'll be doing next year yet, but I thank Mazda and the series, Andersen Racing and Performance Friction for providing the opportunity to do this test," Daly added.
Daly said he liked driving a Firestone Indy Lights car. "They're a lot heavier [than a Star Mazda car] but the power is nice; it's always fun to be in a faster racecar," he said.
"Yesterday both Nick and Conor did about 46 laps and today Conor did just over 90 laps, so Nick did about 75 miles and Conor did about a total of 225 miles," noted Mike Reggio, one of Andersen Racing's engineers. "Neither driver had any issues at all," Reggio said. "Both took it easy and got used to the car, and neither of them even dropped a wheel. Nick did his fastest lap at the end of the day yesterday. Both gave good feedback. It was nice to see how Conor's feedback has improved over the year since I worked with him in the past."
"It was my first time in a Firestone Indy Lights car, and it was really fun," said Andries, 19. "It's definitely different from the Mazda, but I had a good time. I was happy with my performance. I just wanted to learn as much as possible.
"There's a lot more horsepower in a Firestone Indy Lights car than the Star Mazda car, and it's definitely heavier," Andries added. "The main differences were the horsepower and I think the Star Mazda brakes better. But overall I thought the car was stable; it's not as responsive as a Star Mazda car, but it's definitely fast, that's for sure."
Like Daly, Andries' plans for 2011 are up in the air. "Right now I'm leaning toward a full season in Star Mazda and maybe some Firestone Indy Lights races, but it's a matter of finding funding, like everything else," he said.
Andersen's squad will continue testing young hopefuls tomorrow, as the top two drivers in the Championship class of the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda are slated for half-day tests in the team's Star Mazda cars at Sebring. The champion is Andretti Autosport's Sage Karam, while the runner-up is Patrick McKenna, who drives for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. As part of his winnings, Karam, 15, earned a scholarship from Mazda valued at $350,000 to help him advance to the Star Mazda series next year.
McKenna, 23, who hopes to join Karam in Star Mazda in 2011 learned earlier this week that he'd been named the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland "Young Driver of the Year" for the second consecutive year.