Allmendinger, Sellers Earn 2001 Team USA Scholarships

Written by Team USA. Posted in Team USA News

Published on November 03, 2001 with No Comments

Nov 3, 2001
Fontana, Calif. – A.J. Allmendinger, 19, from Hollister, Calif., and Bryan Sellers, also 19, from Centerville, Ohio, have been selected to follow in the footsteps of a long list of talented young American drivers, including current CART FedEx Championship Series contenders Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta and Memo Gidley, as winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship.

The pair will contest the New Zealand International Formula Ford Championship, which will take place over four weekends (each comprising two races) in January and early February.

Allmendinger and Sellers were selected from a “short list” of 12 talented young Americans in the early stages of what they hope will be long and distinguished careers in the sport. All 12 were invited to a “Forum” held during the recent Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300, round 19 of the CART FedEx Championship Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where they met with a panel of accomplished auto racing writers and Team USA Scholarship supporters. The field was then whittled down to five who took part in a shootout aboard Jim Russell Racing Drivers School cars at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Calif.

“The standard of the contenders seems to get better and better each year,” noted Champ Car driver Bryan Herta, who has retained close ties with the program since winning the award in 1991. “I was very impressed. It’s getting harder and harder to make a decision on who should win.”

The Scholarship has been in existence since 1990. In addition to the three Champ Car drivers, alumni also include NASCAR Winston Cup race winner Jerry Nadeau, 2000 CART Toyota Atlantic Champion Buddy Rice, 2001 Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year Joey Hand, and current British Formula 3 Championship contenders Paul Edwards and Phil Giebler.

“For me this is a really big accomplishment,” said Allmendinger, who is currently placed second in the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by Racer and also drives for Paul Tracy Karting in major 125cc shifter kart events. “It means a lot to my career and I hope it will lead to more opportunities to follow in the footsteps of drivers like Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Memo Gidley and Joey Hand.”

“The Scholarship is the greatest award I’ve ever received in my racing career,” said Sellers, who has raced this year in the U.S. F2000 National Championship Presented by Speedvision. “It is more meaningful than anyone can ever imagine. I’m very excited to represent my country in the best way possible.”

Team USA Scholarship winners have taken advantage of a variety of prize drives since the program’s inception. For the past two years they have contested – and won – the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England. Following the demise of FPA, however, in the face of strong competition from a plethora of open-wheel series in Europe, it was decided to seek an alternative opportunity in 2001.

“Formula Ford has been a fantastic proving ground for almost 35 years,” said Team USA Scholarship coordinator Jeremy Shaw. “The series in New Zealand – which has been instrumental in developing the careers of many young stars, including this year’s CART Rookie of the Year Scott Dixon and F1 driver Luciano Burti – is extremely competitive and comes at the perfect time of year, since it gives our drivers an opportunity to hone their racing skills during a traditionally quiet time on the North American calendar.”

Formula Ford will be the premier open-wheel category during the 2001/2002 New Zealand International season, and the Team USA Scholarship winners will have an opportunity to win two of the most prestigious events in the Southern Hemisphere – the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, named after the Kiwi winner of the 1967 Formula 1 World Championship. Previous winners of the New Zealand Grand Prix include such legendary names as Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart and Sir Jack Brabham, plus Americans Ross Cheever and Davy Jones.

The Team USA Scholarship will fund two new Stealth Formula Ford cars prepared and maintained by John Crawford, a former New Zealand Formula Ford Champion who is now proprietor of the Canterbury Racing School based at the Ruapuna circuit on New Zealand’s South Island. The cars will feature a patriotic red, white and blue livery and will be entered in races at Teretonga, the world’s most southerly race track in Invercargill on Jan. 6; Levels Raceway, Timaru, on Jan. 13; Pukekohe, Auckland, on Jan. 20; and Manfeild Raceway, Palmerston North, on Feb. 3.

Supporters and sponsors of the venture include Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), Tasman Motorsports Group, Craig Company LLC, Klein Tools, Road Racing Drivers’ Club, Skip Barber Racing School, Jim Russell Racing Drivers’ School and Buttonwillow Raceway Park.

Photo: (l. to r.) Scott Jenkins, A.J. Allmendinger, Bryan Sellers, Scott Speed and Davy Cook took part in a shoot-out organized by the Jim Russell Racing School at Buttonwillow Raceway Park

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