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Wright On Track To Open-Wheel Success

Kris Wright, ready to race. [photo courtesy KrisWrightMotorsports.com]

by Allan Brewer

At 22 years old Kris Wright is progressing quickly up the ladder toward big-time motorsports success. Three years into his racing career competing in the Mazda-powered IMSA Prototype Challenge series and in the Mazda Road to Indy USF 2000 he’s already posted two top-ten finishes (both at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL). If not for a last-lap spin Kris could easily have taken a podium spot in Alabama as he consistently put in laps holding second place against his competition.

Kris Wright on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. [Andy Clary photo]

Kris Wright on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. [Andy Clary photo]

Kris came up through an alternative pathway, not from quarter-midgets or karts, but from a Kia manufacturer series. He’s seen the learning curve become steeper and the path to the winner’s circle become more demanding, especially once reaching the grandest of the motorsports meccas: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The level of talent here is incredible: everybody is good, real good,” he said today after competing in the USF2000 Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix. “Gaining as much of a tenth of a second on these guys is tough. I like the challenge, of taking on the best drivers out there and measuring myself against them. I can see myself moving up in either a sports car or a formula series, but open wheel here is intensely competitive.”

Kris credits his driver coach Nic Jonsson for his improvement behind the wheel in both series’ machinery. Jonsson has a long history of success in sports car racing and brings an enormous talent and learned eye to the track. It also has been a function or more time behind the wheel, or road exposure, that has been critical in Kris’ development.

Of his training under Nic, Kris says there is a less analytic approach than a data-driven engineering session might produce. “We don’t really focus on technique so much as we do on timing, like on and off the brakes and how much pressure at what time.”

He also shared some insight that might surprise fans of sports cars and open-wheel speedsters. “It’s actually harder to drive the sports car on a road course. It is very physical,” he said, but quickly acknowledged the difficulties of going fast in the open-wheel car. “You have to be so precise with the formula car. We have a window of about 18 inches of placement for the tire or you lose speed.”

Wright had words of praise for the Brickyard on his maiden voyage over the 14-turn 2.4 mile road course configuration running clockwise on and inside the famous oval. “It is my first time here. My family has been here before, to the race, but it’s my first time and it is . . . impressive!”

“This track is very wide compared to some of the ones I’ve raced in the past,” he said. “The visibility and the run-off areas (put in place when Formula 1 raced here) make it possible to get off-course and still recover before you meet a wall.”

Though he finished out of the money in both events in Indianapolis, Kris had extenuating circumstances to point to as justification. “We had a mechanical problem, a throttle sensor went bad,” he said in commenting on his second race in two days on the road course. “We lost a lap and couldn’t make it back over the course of the event.

Kris hails from Wexford, PA near Pittsburgh and is pointing with anticipation to the USF2000 event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in northeastern Ohio. He’s a scratch golfer and has created a charity for children in his down-time from the track. He has also taken time to enjoy some of the culinary delights of downtown Indianapolis, chief among them the famous shrimp cocktail and beef at legendary St Elmo’s restaurant in City Center.

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Allan Brewer
Allan Brewer covers IndyCar and other racing series for RacingNation.com. Allan is a fixture at the race track, armed with keyboard and camera, eager to take you inside open-wheel sport where the news is being made. He comes to RacingNation.com with multiple professional awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AWWRBA). He began his motorsports writing career at FastMachines.com; and solely published IndyProRacer.com and A1GP.com, two award-winning websites for open-wheel racing's junior leagues, prior to becoming IndyCar correspondent at Motorsport.com. He has also covered Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, the Indy Lights Series and its predecessor Indy Pro Series, NHRA events and major auto shows. His major interest outside of competition is automotive technology and its application to the cars we drive every day on the public highways.