Biggest May event for Roncalli senior is not graduation
Roncalli High School senior Kyle O'Gara missed classes Thursday. O'Gara was on a field trip at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But O'Gara wasn't watching race cars. He drove the red, white and blue #67 car during Firestone Indy Lights testing. O'Gara makes his debut in the INDYCAR feeder series May 24th in the Firestone Freedom 100 through a partnership between Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports . Sam Schmidt's team has won seven of the 10 of the Firestone Freedom 100 races at IMS and six of the last 11 series championships.
O'Gara graduates from Roncalli May 25th, the morning after his first Indy Lights race. Later that day, he races in the Night Before the 500 USAC Mopar National Midget Championship race at Lucas Oil Raceway.
"It's a dream come true," said the 18-year-old O'Gara. "It's something we've been working toward my whole career. To finally get out here feels great. You know what it's going to feel like, and it just tops it every time. Every lap we make here, it's one more thing that you learn, one more thing that's more special to us."
O'Gara took his first laps at the Speedway with the driver coaching of nine-time Indy 500 starter Sarah Fisher, Kyle's sister-in-law. Fisher is married to Kyle's older brother, Andy. She stood near the scoring tower at the Speedway watching each of Kyle's laps with keen interest.
"Indianapolis is all about being smooth," said Fisher, now an INDYCAR team owner. "You have to be smooth here. You have to be very precise. The little things here that are maybe not so little elsewhere mean a lot, so we're working on feedback and just trying to get the basics nailed today."
"It's huge to have someone like Sarah come in," said O'Gara. "She's been there. She can be in your shoes. She can give you help like she has been giving me today on entry into the corner, the exit of the corner. Whatever it is, she has been there. It helps so much."
O'Gara's fastest lap in the morning session was 186.981 miles per hour. His previous open-wheel racing experience is in USAC open-wheel cars and karts..
High school seniors like O'Gara have been known to skip school and come out to the track on Carb Day. That's acceptable this year for Roncalli students. One of O'Gara's sponsors, SportEvents.com, is providing all Roncalli High School students and faculty tickets to the Freedom 100.
"I think it's wonderful that Roncalli has been so supportive of Kyle's race here," said Fisher. "We're almost over 600 students that are committed to come to the race to cheer Kyle on, so we're real excited for Carb Day."
Members of the O'Gara family have worked on INDYCARS for over 35 years. But Kyle will be the first O'Gara to race on the famed oval.
"I've been racing since I was four years old," said O'Gara. "I've been coming out here since I was two. So ever since I can remember coming out here with my family during the month of May, it's something I've always wanted to do. To say I finally did it feels great."