Davey Hamilton Jr. will start the next chapter of his racing career when he makes his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend.
The son of Davey Hamilton, the former Indy car driver and current Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network analyst, has spent the better part of his career racing sprint cars. Among his highlights is a King of the Wing Western Sprint Car Series championship in 2015 on the strength of five wins.
Heading into his first Indy Lights races, the 19-year-old from Boise, Idaho, feels that just finishing both ends of the Soul Red Finale doubleheader would be a win for the weekend.
“I’m not going to get in everybody’s way,” Hamilton Jr. said. “I know there are other drivers fighting for a championship, so I’m not going to affect them. I just want to go out there, get my name out there and just get good results and stay clean.”
Hamilton Jr. has tested for McCormack Racing mostly at Buttonwillow (Calif.) Raceway Park to begin building on his dream of racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. His opportunity began nearly two years ago when team owner Jack McCormack approached him to test.
“The (Mazda) Road to Indy program is something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” Hamilton Jr. said. “I wanted to start out in the USF2000 series and work my way up. Luckily enough, I got the opportunity to start testing immediately with Indy Lights over a year ago.
“He (McCormack) came up to me and said, ‘You ready to get fitted tomorrow?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ The next day he fitted me in his car.”
Hamilton Jr. had a last test at Buttonwillow this week in final preparations for his debut.
“This final test is to just make sure that the car is ready to go,” he said. “We just want to insure that there are no issues and we don’t run into anything during the race.”
Despite his successes in sprint cars, Hamilton Jr. is facing a new challenge: racing on road courses. His experience is limited but he has driven at Laguna Seca in 2012 when he was in the Skip Barber Racing School.
He does admit, though, that the switch from sprint cars to an Indy Lights car forces a big change in approach.
“They are completely different driving styles,” he said. “Luckily, I can adapt to different styles quickly.
“A sprint car has more horsepower than an Indy Lights car, so speed wasn’t an issue for me. There, you have 850 horsepower and you sit upright. In an Indy Lights car, you are laying down almost. In these cars, you are shifting, where in a sprint car you have one gear and that’s it. In those cars, you drive it sideways, where here you don’t want that at all.”
Team owner McCormack has been involved in racing for nearly 50 years. He has worked with the likes of Sam Posey, Rocky Moran, Jim McElreath, Pancho Carter, Roger McCluskey, Tom Sneva and Geoff Brabham. McCormack Racing entered cars in Indy Lights competition as long ago as 1992.
“It’s huge for me to be a part of any team, but I think this team is a good starting point with all the drivers that they have worked with,” Hamilton Jr. said. “He understands my style of talking coming from oval racing. It’s a whole different game when it comes to setups because I am new to it and it’s a different form of setups for me.”
The Soul Red Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is the climactic weekend for all three Mazda Road to Indy series. All sessions are set to stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Practice sessions take place Friday, beginning with Pro Mazda at 11:45 a.m. ET and running through the conclusion of Indy Lights practice at 7:55 p.m. Qualifying for all three series runs from 11:35 a.m. to 1:35 p.m. ET Saturday, with the first race for each later that afternoon (Pro Mazda 5:05 p.m., Indy Lights 6 p.m., USF2000 7:05 p.m.). Pro Mazda’s second race will be at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, followed by USF2000 at 2:20 p.m., Indy Lights at 4:10 p.m. and the third Pro Mazda race concluding action at 5:35 p.m.