Pinay on the road to Indy 500

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

April 10, 2014

TAMPA, FLORIDA – Filipino-American Michele Bumgarner is on the road to becoming the first Filipino auto racer to make it to the Indianapolis 500-mile race or Indy 500 — the largest single day sporting event in the world held in Indiana annually.

Last year, Bumgarner, the Asian Queen of Speed – made her mark at the Grand Prix of Houston Indycar Series where she made it to the top 10 and brought home two awards.

That qualified her in last week’s Indycar Streets of St. Petersburg opening weekend where Bumgarner kicked off a new season of competition in the Pro-Mazda Championships presented by Cooper Tire.

Although Michelle finished in 12th place on race 1 and 13th place in race 2, her number 16 Philippine Pro-Mazda came home without a scratch.

“This weekend, it turned out really well,” Bumgarner said. “I came into the weekend to focus on two things — to gain and improve every time I went out on a track and, of course, to not crash or bring the car home in one piece. So that’s what I did, naman. So my team was happy.”

Bumgarner says this is the second step towards her goal of racing in the Indycar 500.

“I definitely want to be the first Pinay in the Indy 500,” Bumgarner said. “I want to qualify. You know we haven’t had a Pinoy in Indycar since obviously Jovie Marcelo, who passed away driving at the speedway in the early 90’s. I hope to be the first Pinoy to actually qualify.”

The road to Indy 500 is not easy, but Bumgarner dreamed of it for as long as she could remember.

Born in the Philipines in 1989 to a Pinay mother and a kart-racing American father, Bumgarner started kart racing at the age of nine at a family owned go-kart track in Subic, Olongapo in the Philippines.

“So every weekend we were always there driving,” Bumgarner said. “That’s where we learned how to drive. At first my dad didn’t allow me. He thought, oh, it’s only for boys — girls don’t need to be driving. He even thought that. But with a lot of begging and pleading he eventually got me a go-kart.”

At the age of 10, Bumgarner made her debut into the National Karting Series in the Philippines in 1999.

Then, Bumgarner made her car racing debut in the Asian Formula Three Championship, finishing third in the series’ promotion class in 2006 – becoming the first female winner in the Asian Formula 3 Series and the youngest female racer at that.

“I was the first Filipina, the first Asian woman to do so,” she said. “So obviously it was very exciting. No one’s ever done it, breaking records and stuff. So I was very blessed.”

“After that I went to Europe,” she added. ”Not a lot of Filipinos have been to Europe in race kart. In Europe, of course, that’s the top of the top karting. I did pretty good there for my debut. It’s just tough.”

In September 2008, Bumgarner became the first female champion of the world’s largest street karting race – the Rock Island Grand Prix in Illinois – making Bumgarner the seventh foreign-born racer to win in its history. She defended the title and won again in 2009.

“Racing being a man’s sport, I hope they see what I’m doing is in itself kind of empowering women anyway,” she said. “I hope to be a good role model to Filipinos. Not just Filipinos, but to everyone also. “I love it so much that I can’t see myself doing anything else. As long as you set your mind and your heart to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Her next step is to compete at the Barber Motorsports Park race, April 25 – 27 in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I’m in the Mazda Road to IndyCar Pro series, and then IndyLights and then IndyCar,” she said. “So in three, four years I’ll be at IndyCar.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • JRB
    10 April 2014 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I wish you Michele the best at begin the first filipino women try to be auto racer at the Indy 500. Not anyone can do what you do as a first asian women auto racer. Good Luck Michele !

  • Kikay Pang0
    11 April 2014 at 2:55 am - Reply

    Try dancing instead if you fail to qualify for the 200 laps race.

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