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Filipina first woman champ of Rock Island GP
« on: September 20, 2008, 03:49:54 PM »
First Posted 13:11:00 09/20/2008


ASEAN karting queen Michele Bumgarner made history in the Rock Island Grand Prix in Illinois by becoming the first female champion in the world’s largest street kart racing event.

Bumgarner bagged the Tag Seniors crown, also earning her the distinction as the seventh foreign-born winner in the event’s 14-year history.

With the victory, the media is now making comparison of her to Danica Patrick, who also emerged the first female champion of Rock Island’s counterpart, the Indy Racing League, last April.

The 19 year old bet surprised everyone as a first-timer in the event when she piloted the Margay Team to a 1-2-3-4 finish and clocked 11 minutes and 24.144sec.

Teammate Kyle Erdmann came in 0.916sec behind for second place, while Scott Hamble and Brett Johnson finished third and fourth places, respectively.

For years, the Rock Island Grand Prix has been known as a stepping stone to barge into the Indy Racing League (IRL) and has drawn hundreds of entries annually from all over the world, including Argentina, Bermuda, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, France, Italy and Mexico as well as Canada and the United States.

“This will stick with me my whole career. Everyone goes on about how great this race is and it’s special that this is my first time here and my first win here. I hope to come back,” said Bumgarner, who credited the support of Margay’s experienced crew that includes crew chief and former RIGP champ Rick Fulks and RIGP’s winningest racer until last year Jason Birdsell.

Bumgarner is also backed up by Petron XCS, Spectrum-OSO Asia, Department of Tourism, Molecule, City Kart Racing, Oakley and Goodyear.

“I’ve got fantastic support here,” Bumgarner said. “How could I not be up front?”

Even RIGP officials were impressed, predicting a promising racing career for Bumgarner who’s planning to move to Indianapolis to pursue hopes of going the Indy Racing League route by the end of the year.

“I think she has a pretty bright career ahead of her, and it depends on how that career goes,” RI Grand Prix president Roger Ruthhart said. “It served us well when Scott Speed went on to Formula One, with him saying how he had been a Rock Island Grand Prix champion. It could be the same thing with Michele.”

Bumgarner didn’t come to Rock Island with expectations to win. But the media already speculated her historic feat after posting a top qualifying speed of 33.096 seconds that made her the first female pole-winner in RIGP history.

“I didn’t come here intending to be a trailblazer, but it’s an extra perk,” she said. “What I know is, it was going to be a close race to the end.”
 

 


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