Peter Portante, who won the MAZDASPEED Scholarship Shootout at Road Atlanta in December, has signed with Belardi Auto Racing to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Championship.
"Being a huge fan of formula car racing, I always wanted to give road racing a shot, but with continued success in oval cars we found it tough to make the change," said Portante. "Once we learned about Skip Barber and what they had to offer it seemed like a no brainer to us, so we made the switch while running a limited late model season.
"We could not have been happier the way 2012 went. There was a very steep learning curve when I started and I went through a lot of growing pains. With proper coaching from Lee Carpentier and the whole Skip Barber staff I was able to elevate my driving in a very short period of time.
"If it was not for Skip Barber and the Mazda Road to Indy's Scholarship program we would never be in the position to have signed with a team like Belardi Auto Racing for our first USF2000 season. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to be with such a strong team and able to move to the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy."
The Connecticut native stepped into the world of oval karting at the age of seven and eventually graduated to stock cars while making a name for himself in the U.S.'s Northeast. In his ten years of circle track racing he won 10 championships. Following his time in stock cars, Peter turned to open-wheel racing with a move to Skip Barber where he had a successful season in the Summer Series. Portante then participated in the Series' shootout, a rigorous three-day process of media training, fitness evaluation, and business proposal evaluation on top of the race events, and fought to the end with a win by a quarter of a point, truly showcasing how tough the competition had been.
The 16-year-old's path up INDYCAR's Mazda Road to Indy from Skip Barber to USF2000 makes sense as his ultimate goal is to become a winner of the Indianapolis 500 and an IZOD IndyCar series champion - the top tier of North America's open-wheel racing ladder system.
"We're happy to see another talented racer from the Skip Barber Racing School make the jump to USF2000," said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports. "Peter earned this ride against some great competition. He will certainly have his work cut out for him this season as he moves up a rung on the Mazda Road to Indy. The combination of his Skip Barber experience, coupled with great support from Belardi Auto Racing should allow Peter to rise to the occasion."
Team owner Brian Belardi added, "It is awesome to see the Mazda Road to Indy continue to be a choice for young open-wheel drivers, and we are really excited to have Peter make the next step with us. It's great to have another MAZDA Scholarship driver join our team, too, and we couldn't be happier to have it be someone as talented and driven as Portante.
"He caught our eye when we attended the Shootout in December, so we decided to test him in one of our cars and couldn't be happier with his performance. We really hope to continue the success we had last year and think Peter will be a great addition."
The addition of Portante to Belardi Auto Racing's USF2000 program now makes it a four-car team, joining American Matt McMurry, Canadian Daniel Burkett and Brazilian Danilo Estrela. The 2013 season will kick off at Sebring International Raceway on March 14.