Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2019

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Ron Kantowski: Young drivers get boost from Kool program

Jeff Shafer and Matt Sielsky may or may not go on to become auto racing superstars. But as winners of the first Team Kool Green Academy driver talent search at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, at least they'll get the kind of chance that Barry Green wish he'd had.

Green's claim to fame is preparing the car that carried Jacques Villeneuve to the 1995 CART PPG World Series championship and Indianapolis 500 victory, propelling the young French-Canadian to Formula One superstardom.

But once upon a time, Green thought his driving future was every bit as bright as his young prot'eg'e's.

"I did this. I tried to make it (as a driver)," Green said upon naming Shafer, 21, of North Hollywood, Calif., and Sielsky, 18, of Northbrook, Ill., to the head of the class in the Team Green Academy, a six-step driving and instruction program held in association with the Derek Daly Speedcentre at LVMS. "That's why I think it means so much to me, to offer something to these young drivers."

Through the auspices of Green's primary sponsor, Kool, Shafer and Sielsky (who were chosen from a field of 250 aspirants), will receive financial backing to do an entire professional racing program.

"I have to think that I was was a pretty reasonable driver but I had no support and no guidance," Green added. "Had I had the guidance, it might have made a difference."

Las Vegan Jimmy Vasser, the reigning CART PPG World Series champion who served on the Academy judging panel, managed to make it to the top without such a program. But Vasser said the Team Green Academy should make it a little easier for promising American drivers such as Shafer (who competed in the Skip Barber series last year) and Sielsky (12th in last weekend's Formula Ford 2000 race at Walt Disney World).

"I know when I was coming through the ranks 10 years ago, there wasn't anything like this," Vasser said. "You've got to give the Team Green Academy credit for giving these guys a chance, not only to showcase their talent but to learn."


Rookie stripes: Former Formula One and Indy-car driver Derek Daly and wife Beth become proud parents for the third time Tuesday when Christian Sean Daly was born in Indianapolis. Young Daly weighed in at 8 lbs., 10 oz. during tech inspection. His papa operates the Derek Daly Speedcentre at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. ... Lake Tahoe's Davy Jones, injured in a practice crash prior to last weekend's Indy Racing League event at Disney World, was moved from an Orlanda, Fla., hospital to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis this week. He has been upgraded to fair condition with a closed head injury. Well-wishes can be faxed to Jones at (317) 929-6315 or be sent to him in care of Methodist Hospital, I-65 at 21st Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46206-1367. ... Las Vegan Jimmy Vasser, on the significance of CART spring training, which began Thursday and runs through Saturday at the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex in Florida: "I only ran the last day (last year) and right at the end, set (the) fast lap at almost 196 mph. That seemed to excite the whole team." Three weeks later, Vasser returned to win the season opener at Homestead, one of four victories leading to his PPG World Series championship. ... CART star Michael Andretti will be a judge in next Wednesday's Miss USA beauty pageant. ... Las Vegan Dale White captured his third straight SCORE off-road Class 8 win, setting the pace in the Westward-Ho Chevy during the 1997 season opener at Parker, Ariz., last weekend. ... Las Vegan Wayne Jacks drove the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Pontiac to a solid third-place finish in the NASCAR Winston West season opener at Tucson, Ariz.