Former Asian Karting Queen Michele Bumgarner scored another breakthrough achievement for Philippine Motorsports that puts her just steps away from her dream of making it in the international formula racing scene.
The 19-year-old Bumgarner, who had been voted as one of the seven most admired women in Philippines, recently inked a five-year driver development deal to race in the Indy Lights Series and the Indy Car Series as she has been chosen as the first driver for the NexGen and Walker Racing driver development program to race in the Indy Lights Series in 2009.
That makes her the first Filipino race driver to see action in the prestigious Indy Light Series which is the next best step to open wheel racing in North America. Under the program, Michele will take the track next year and after correct development and experience, she will move into the Indy Car Racing series in North America.
Charlie Patterson of NexGen MTD and Walker Racing owner Derrick Walker personally met and signed up Michele who was their unanimous choice as the pioneer recruit for their joint program based on her impressive credentials as the first female champion of the Rock Island Grand Prix in New York, her feat as a four-time Asian Karting Queen and numerous stints in the Italian Masters Karting Formula Toyota Series, Asian Formula 3 and the Star Mazda Series.
"I'm very excited, signing with Charlie Patterson and Peter Olach of NexGen is a great honor. I am also proud to be flying the Philippines flag and representing the Filipino people through this great adventure," said Michele who expressed her gratitude to current partners Spectrum OSO Asia, Petron, Oakley, Goodyear, City Kart Racing, Molecule, Philippines Department of Tourism for Sports and Wellness that have helped her through the 2008 season.
"I have much to learn and prepare for the 2009 season as well as beyond, constant learning and developing for two or more years to reach the Indy Car Series," she added
In the past five decades, open wheel racing has had a rich tradition in America. Hundreds of aspiring drivers have tried to work their way up the infamous ladder into Indy Car, but many haven't had the opportunity to make it that far, until now.
Patterson formed NexGen Making The Driver (MTD) and established a long-term business relationship with Walker Racing to create a driver development program that competes in the Indy Lights and Indy Car Series over the next five seasons.
A long-time member of the racing community, and a veteran in formula racing, Derrick Walker has over 40 years of racing experience, and eighteen of those years as a team owner. His most recent venture was creating a Champ Car Atlantic team that bagged the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship title behind Simon Pagenaud in its first year of existence.
The thrust is to formally seek out those young men and women who meet or exceed very stringent criteria for consideration and placement as a professional driver-athlete within the highest ranks of competition and help these talented youth reach the pinnacle of the sport.
"Derrick Walker and Walker Racing are a perfect fit to our program mission," said Patterson. "Derrick and his team bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise that is second to none in this sport. And, we are especially pleased that Derrick has elected to help us advance the professional racing career of 19-year-old driver, Michele Bumgarner."
"The objective of NexGen MTD's driver development program is to give young drivers an opportunity to have a quality program and assist them in different ways to help their career. The venture will focus on developing drivers with the ultimate goal of graduating into the Indy Car Series," stated Walker Racing owner Derrick Walker.
Michele is now in the United States to tackle the rigors of American open wheel racing. She's currently residing in Indianapolis for her racing career but has plans of visiting the Philippines over the holidays for a few days.
Just recently, she tested in the Indy Lights race car at Putnam Raceway and did extremely well for her first time in this powerful open-wheel racer, once again proving her capabilities as a professional race car driver.
"I've met so many people in such a small period of time and they have been a huge help. I'm looking forward to having a great relationship with Walker Racing and everyone involved as they have a great history and background," said Michele.
"The professionalism that they have is the best and this is a great opportunity for me. My goal is to get as much out of it as I can and to get the next level which is Indy Car Series. I think this is a great match and we can take each other to the top."
With this crowning achievement, Michele is also "paving" the way for other young drivers from the Philippines and Asia to realize their personal dreams with hard work and dedication.
With NexGen and Walker Racing driver development program taking her a step closer to her dream of racing in the greatest singular Motorsports race in the world - the Indianapolis 500, Michele looks forward to inviting other Philippine corporations to partner with her and the NexGen and Walker Racing in 2009 on this exciting journey to the top of North America open wheel Motorsports while representing the Philippine people on the world stage of Motorsports.
For more information on NexGen MTD, Michele Bumgarner, and Walker Racing please visit their websites at www.makingthedriver.com, www.michelebumgarnerracing.com, and www.walkerracing.com. Or contact Peter G Olach, Partner/Agent, NexGen MTD, PO Box 1889, Hickory, NC 28603, USA. Tel: 828.638.0345.