Heads up, Brazil! Your claim as the #1 Exporter of quality IndyCar drivers may soon be in jeopardy. That tiny island of just over four million called New Zealand is has sent two Indy Racing champions our way, and if the pedigree of those drivers is any indication there may be more to come.
You know about 2003 series winner Scott Dixon, but you may not have noticed his fellow Kiwi, 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham. While Dixon went though several series en route to his IndyCar career, Cunningham has taken a faster track with an even more impressive resume.
Cunningham began racing in his youth against his brothers at a go-kart track in Auckland, the same one previously frequented by Dixon. By 14 he had his first junior championship in karting, was national champion 3 years later, and in 2003 he won the CIK-FIA World (World!) Karting Championship in Italy. After a year in Formula Ford (where he won the Rising Star Award) he moved to the Indy Pro series in 2005, becoming the Series Champion in his first year.
To date his Indy Pro record includes 2 wins and 18 top 5s in 21 races. Money in the Bank! These races have fields of 15-20 cars, so Cunningham is proving unparalleled dependability on the track.
With a resume like that, Cunningham may be the guy first guy in line for a team looking to catch the next big thing in IndyCar racing. In the course of tracking him down we learned he’s actually a pretty technical guy, handling all the development of his own web site. Maybe he can hack into the Penske software and figure out what’s making them go so fast. Until then, it is with great pride that we welcome Wade Cunningham to the My Name Is IRL arena of Five Quick Questions.
To paraphrase Old No 2, “Wade, can ya hear me?”
1. Your bio says you and your family are pretty good at kick boxing. Is that accurate, and has this ever benefited you on a race track?
My older brother was big into his martial arts, he is a personal trainer and is always looking to try something new. I can’t really say it has helped on the track but he sure comes in handy off it.
2. How was the testing experience at Iowa last month? Did you offer to trade cars with countryman Scott Dixon?
It was very unique because I had never been on a track that short before, and neither had a Pro Series car, so there was a lot of anticipation on how the car would react. We were on a limited schedule there and the day was over pretty quick so I definitely offered to drive the IndyCar.
I have no idea!
(Either Wade is hiding something or he must have been REALLY focused on race day to not have noticed that Rally Monkey right in front of him.)
4. You were World Karting Champion in 2003 and Indy Pro champion in 2005, so it would seem you are ready for the IndyCar series. Where should race fans expect to see you in 2007?
I am working hard to be in an IndyCar for next year, it is for sure the goal but only time will tell.
It is really just something I did for fun taken way too far. And now I like the attention that it gets. I think I will stick this for a while yet.
Keep the hair, man. Thanks to Wade for taking the time out of his schedule, and also to Ross at Fast Company for helping us reach him. We love to see rivalries, be they between Teammates, Brazilians, Women or even Kiwis. Rahal, Fernandez, and Ganassi had better take a hard look at this guy, because I’m sure they’d rather be driving with him than against him on Sundays in the near future. Hopefully we will see Wade in the IndyCar series next year, but if it doesn’t happen we’d love to put money on him in a scrap with Champ Car instigator Paul Tracy.