Winston de Wardt didn't get the first-place finish he was hoping for this season, but the aspiring Formula One driver from Steamboat Springs ended up with several surprises that made his second year in the Skip Barber Racing series worthwhile.
The Skip Barber Racing series presented de Wardt with a silver tray for finishing fourth overall in the regional series, as well as a pewter wine bucket for being named its Most Improved Driver.
In addition, de Wardt, at the discretion of the race officials, was presented with $2,000 in "Skippy bucks" to be used as credit toward future Skip Barber races.
"That was out of the blue," de Wardt said. "I was kind of hoping I would get the Most Improved Driver award, but I didn't think I'd be a prime suspect for it. I didn't count myself out, but I didn't think I had a real chance."
In just two seasons, de Wart, 19, has progressed from a regional level to a regional championship level. Next season, de Wardt hopes and plans to compete at the national level.
The young driver said he received the Most Improved Driver award for displaying a sincere desire to improve and progress from season to season.
De Wardt is in his second year at Colorado State University at Pueblo, in an automotive-related field.
"I showed great improvement since last year," de Wardt said. "One of the main reasons they chose me was because I am always looking for feedback and always looking to improve myself. I have a clipboard I take everywhere and would write down everything the instructors told me."
The final race weekend of the regional championship series was held Sept. 11 and 12 at Road America in Elkhart, Wis. De Wardt took the pole position for the first of two races Sept. 11 and finished in third place behind Revere Greist and Andy Rosetto, after the trio exchanged the lead throughout the race. There were just .908 seconds separating first- and third-place times.
The final race of the season didn't go well for de Wardt, but he was pleased to leave Wisconsin with several honors, including an invite to race in the 2004 runoff race in November at Laguna Seca, Calif.
No points will be awarded for finishes at the Laguna Seca track, but the racers will be competing for cash prizes.
"It's basically a competition to win money for racing," de Wardt said. "It will be pretty competitive. It's not just racers from the Midwest. It's everybody."
Anyone interested in learning more about de Wardt's season and more about the Skip Barber Racing series can visit de Wardt's Web site: www.wdewracing.com.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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