Bumgarner seeks to become 1st Asian in IndyCar Series

By Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 23 2014 05:40 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2014 01:40 AM

Michele Bumgarner

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American Michele Bumgarner, one of Asia’s top race car drivers, plans to become the first Filipino to make it to the IndyCar Series level.

The 24-year-old is currently at Pro Mazda level or two levels away from the IndyCar Series, which is considered the premier level of American open-wheel racing.

“Indycar is my ultimate goal. If you think about it, I have two world levels to go be where I wanna be,” she told local media on Wednesday.

Bumgarner, who was born and raised in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and an American father, is scheduled to fly to the US on January 31.

She will be doing a couple of warm-up races in Lousiana and Alabama before heading to Florida for the first race of the Pro Mazda Championship’s 2014 season in end-March.

The Pro Mazda Championship is part of the Mazda Road to Indy program, which has three levels: the F2000, Pro Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights. The next step after the Indy Lights is the IndyCar Series.

“If I do good this year, I'd be able to move up into the next ladder, which is Indy Lights. Obviously when I do good, next year Indycar na, which is my goal,” she said.

Bumgarner, who started when she was just 9, raced go-karts for nine years at various levels and locations with several championships.

In September 2008, Bumgarner became the first female champion of the Rock Island Grand Prix in Rock Island, Illinois -- the world’s largest street karting race -- and the seventh foreign-born winner in its 14-year history.

She later made her transition to open-wheel racing, testing Formula Toyota, Formula BMW, Formula-3 and Star Mazda.

Last year, she made her mark at the Grand Prix of Houston Indycar Series, making it to the Top 10 and bringing home two awards. This served as the qualifier and preparation for her run to the full Pro Mazda Championship.

“Obviously, you can't predict what will happen to you every race because things can happen and things can break. What you wanna do is be consistent throughout the first season, win the championship and then move up from there,” said Bumgarner. “I hope in two to three years I'd be there.”

Bumgarner admitted that race car driving wasn’t her first sport. “I was also a tennis player. I was champion in my age group in tennis,” she said.

And then she discovered racing.

“I chose racing because I just thought it was so much more fun. And one of the reason I chose it is I knew walang masyadong babae sa racing,” she said.

“At first, I was just having fun... just driving around. Even when I was slow I didn't care, I was driving and having fun. The turning point for me was when I won my first race in my second year of karting. That was when it kind of clicked.” -- With a report from Reyma Buan-Deveza, ABS-CBNnews.com