Since 1994, some of karting's biggest names have gathered each Labor Day weekend in Rock Island, Ill., with an eye on being crowned "King of the Streets." In 2011, winning that title will come with an added bonus. The Mazda Road to Indy and IndyCar announced that it will award a test day in a Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda car to the driver that wins King of Streets at the Rock Island Grand Prix presented by ATT.
"The Mazda Road to Indy was created to develop Formula car drivers, but linking it to karting events such as the Rock Island Grand Prix is essential in growing the program," said Jason Penix, manager of grass-roots marketing for INDYCAR. "Karting is the foundation of the Mazda Road to Indy and we are looking forward to building a link with the young drivers that want to further their career.
"I know the important role karting plays in the career of a young driver. Hopefully, those young drivers find that the Mazda Road to Indy is the best proving ground for them when they are ready to progress into cars. We're looking forward to seeing who will win the title King of the Streets this year and to working with them during their test day."
The winner's USF2000 test day will be part of a program that the Mazda Road to Indy will announced at a later date.
"As a premier kart racing event in North America, we have seen top drivers come through Rock Island on their way to higher forms of racing. We know it is possible. The IndyCar administration under Randy Bernard has made a clear statement in support of these opportunities though its Mazda Road to Indy program and a commitment to help top drivers at each level move up," said Roger Ruthhart, president of the Rock Island Grand Prix. "The timing is perfect for us to work closely with IndyCar to assure that karting's top competitors are aware of the Mazda Road to Indy opportunities and for IndyCar to be more visible in all levels including karting. Both organizations will benefit from planned cross promotion. We would like to thank Ruthie Forbes from GRand Solutions for facilitating this deal and we look forward to working with Jason Penix and the staff at IndyCar on this program from which both organizations should benefit for years to come."
The Rock Island Grand Prix – recognized as the world's largest karting street race – will be celebrating its 17th anniversary when it takes place on Labor Day weekend in 2011. It routinely draws entries from throughout the United States and Canada, competing for one of karting's largest purses. It has also hosted racers from Italy, France, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, Argentina, Bermuda, the Philippines and Mexico. It includes 15 feature races in 4-cycle, 2-cycle, TAG and shifter classes. Past winners of the King of the Streets include Scott Speed, Kyle Wiegand and Alan Rudolph.