Red Deer race car driver facing sponsorship issues after strong start to Indy Pro 2000 season
For up-and-coming drivers in North American racing, the road to success doesn’t just rely on track performance.
That’s what Red Deer’s Parker Thompson is learning first-hand in his quest to reach the continent’s top open-wheel racing series, IndyCar.
The 21-year-old is in the Indy Pro 2000 series, the middle rung of the three-series Road to Indy developmental program, which prepares young drivers for the IndyCar series.
Thompson was leading the Indy Pro series through the first half of last season, collecting three wins before mechanical issues forced the Albertan to settle for a second-place finish in the standings.
Over the off-season, Thompson lost his ride, but it wasn’t because of his skill.
He says that in the junior series to IndyCar, teams rely on drivers to bring in sponsorship.
“The drivers are actually required to go out and raise the money,” Thompson said.
“The teams don’t have the resources to raise the money to hire drivers. It’s more or less upon the driver to go raise the money to pay for all the expendables it costs to go racing.”
Thompson was left without a ride until a week before the start of the season when racing team Abel Motorsports needed a driver to fill one of its cars for the upcoming Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
In just one week behind the wheel, the Red Deer driver would qualify for first place for both races then set a track record while winning both events.
But now, Thompson is without a ride again, hoping to raise enough money to support a team for the rest of the season.
And bringing in that funding is a challenge, especially for a driver from Western Canada.
Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is from Ontario, and he says not many Canadian racers come from the Prairies.
“When it comes to motor sports, it’s just a lack of knowledge, let’s call it. (Some Canadians) don’t know that there’s IndyCar races out there,” Thompson said.
Thompson is hoping he’ll be able to get back behind the wheel before the Indy Pro 2000 series resumes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
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