Andre Gomes, a 24-year-old computer technician from Nashua, New Hampshire, was named the winner of the inaugural Skip Barber Racing School IndyCar Academy Shootout today at Sebring. Gomes had topped the time sheets – convincingly -- in each of the three rounds of on-track sessions on Friday and Saturday. He also led in the overall points total after Saturday's activities, a total that included the Skip Barber instructors' subjective ratings of the 32 drivers on hand in addition to the points based on fastest laps and average lap times.
Whatever suspense remained in the event evaporated early this morning final on track sessions when Gomes, in the first of four, eight car groups to take to the track, uncorked a fast lap of 1:20:623 and an average lap of 1:21.348 over the course of 13 laps.
“This is just amazing,” said Gomes. “I was very surprised at how quick everyone was, especially given the fact that nobody had much experience. It made me a little nervous, to be honest, and to be the first person to win a one of a kind competition like this just leaves me speechless. I want to thank everyone who made this possible, from the mechanics who did a fantastic job preparing the cars all the way to the guy who made the sandwiches for us to eat for lunch – without him none of us would have had the fuel to drive in the afternoons!”
For his efforts, Gomes wins a fully sponsored ride in the 2013 summer Skip Barber Regional Race Series presented by Mazda, with the opportunity to climb the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The Barber IndyCar Academy Shootout amounts to a winner-take-all competition with no prizes for finishing “on the podium.” However, it's worth recording that the runner-up in the competition was Connor Clifford (Chicago, RIGHT) with Javier Cantu-Lucero (Bellevue, Wash.) in third place with Michai Stephens (Evanston, Ill., LEFT) fourth and David Alpert (Naples, Fla.) rounding out the top five.
The final points total read as follows:
Andres Gomes: 330.88
Connor Clifford: 321.50
Javier Cantu-Lucero: 312.88
Michai Stephens: 303.00
David Alpert: 302.00
In addition to winning a ride in the Skip Barber Regional Race Series, Gomes earned a special bonus prize courtesy of Bryan Herta, who revealed before the results of the shootout were announced that he would provide the winner with a hospitality suite ticket, garage pass and tour of the Bryan Herta Autosport garage at the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
Although there were no official prizes for those finishing second or lower, the participants were informed they would be afforded a 25% discount on an entry in a Skip Barber Regional Race Series if they registered on or before Feb. 1, 2013. What's more, the shootout participant generating the most Facebook “Likes” and “Shares” for his Shootout posts will receive 1,000 Skip Barber dollars.
At 51 years of age, Alan Baker was a clear winner in the greybeard contest of the Skip Barber IndyCar Academy, while at the other end of the age spectrum, 17-year-old Jarrett “Oversteer” Overstreet (Roanoke, Va.) was a runaway winner in the “cool nickname” contest. Baker also earned plaudits from one and all by organizing a “pass the hat” fund to thank the Skip Barber mechanics who prepped the cars at the shootout.
Given that the criteria for inclusion in the Skip Barber IndyCar Academy Shootout were specifically designed for drivers with very limited experience behind the wheel of a racecar, the three-day session was a roaring success in terms of carnage – or lack thereof. With four groups of eight drivers getting four 20 minute on-track sessions, the lap total approached 1500 laps. While there were a number of spins and many “wheels-off” incidents, there were only two “crashes,” one resulting in tweaked A-arm and the other in considerable damage to the rear of one of the Formula Skip Barber cars.