Winston de Wardt has a racing secret that he's not sharing.
All he'll say it is the technique, which he employed during his four days of qualifications and races in Wisconsin last week, that played a pivotal role in posting the fastest laps during the May 21 practice sessions and the first race in the championship group May 22 at the Road America track.
"It's easier to do things smoother," de Wardt said of the driving technique. "It makes everything smoother. It's a secret technique."
Last summer, de Wardt, a Steamboat Springs resident and graduate of The Lowell Whiteman School, entered the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) ladder system and accelerated through at such a fast rate that Divina Galica, managing director of Skip Barber racing, invited him to race in this summer's Formula Dodge National Championship series. The jump in levels happened one year ahead of schedule, de Wardt said. He had planned to race one more season at the regional level.
In the May 22 race, the first of the 2004 season, de Wardt placed fifth while recording the fastest lap in wet conditions. On May 23, he moved up from fifth to finish third, while averaging 90.6 mph during the eight-lap race.
"I didn't think I'd be that fast already, especially with this much time between seasons," de Wardt said. "When I got third I was happy, but I wasn't enthusiastic. I'd rather have first. It's definitely not just for fun. This is a career goal."
The goal of becoming a professional driver has not changed since de Wardt enrolled in the Skip Barber Racing School and its series a little more than a year ago. In an effort to continue toward those goals, de Wardt spent the offseason working harder in the gym while taking automotive industry management classes at Colorado State University in Pueblo.
In addition, he is competing in go-kart races in the Colorado Springs area, which is common for up-and-coming racecar drivers to do for several reasons.
"Go-karts are harder to drive," de Wardt said. "Driving them also helps with reaction time."
As de Wardt's comfort level in his race car has increased, his white knuckles have disappeared. In their place is a calmer, more composed driver who finds himself more confident and consistent.
"The instructors said he stepped it up from last year," John de Wardt, Winston's father, said.
With his success, de Wardt picked up his first sponsor, Marriott Specialty Foods. The company's contribution to his racing dream helps with about one-quarter of the budget for the 2004 season in which de Wardt will travel across the country and into Canada.
The July Fourth weekend marks de Wardt's next trip to Road America, and for the first time, his family, including his mother and sister, plans to attend.
For more information on de Wardt's racing career, visit www.wdewracing.com.