On a night when most of his Roncalli High School classmates were working out the details of getting to the first day of school, 17-year-old Kyle O’Gara was trying to figure out how he could get to the front of the pack in a USAC/STARS D1 Midget Feature after starting last.
If the 30-lap feature Saturday night at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., is any indication, O’Gara had no problem getting to school on time Monday morning.
As the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) development driver, O’Gara drove the No. 17-B RW Motorsports midget from the back of the pack Saturday night to win his first-ever USAC/STARS D1 Midget feature.
Despite having a car that was fast as soon as it rolled off the trailer, O’Gara was forced to skip qualifications due to a rules infraction. As a result, he lined up last on the grid.
The young driver and his team were undeterred by the setback, and O’Gara charged quickly through the field.
“We started on the tail but were up 10 spots in the first two laps,” O’Gara said. “From there we took the lead on lap 13 and didn’t look back.”
O’Gara led the final 17 laps of the 30-lap feature to collect the win.
“I knew it was going to be a hard race to get up front, but I also knew we had the car to do it,” he said. “We were the fastest in the practice sessions and our heat race, and I was confident in the crew.”
O’Gara’s victory message to his Twitter followers included a message to one of his racing mentors – Bryan Clauson – who shares several connections to O’Gara. Clauson drove for SFHR’s IndyCar team in the 2012 Indianapolis 500, and he also frequently drives a USAC Silver Crown car for RW Motorsports, the team that prepared O’Gara’s winning car at Grundy County Speedway.
O’Gara frequently reaches out to Clauson for advice at various race tracks. The veteran driver also ends his messages to O’Gara by telling him where to park his race car at the end of the race.
This was O’Gara’s winning tweet:
@kyleogara “Parked the @RWMotorsports 17b in the circle tonight at Grundy County! Started 20th and came through the field in 13 laps.”
It was a message he couldn’t wait to share.
“BC (Bryan Clauson) tells me to park my car in victory circle every night, so that tweet was for him,” O’Gara said.
After the dust from O’Gara’s victory settled, he traveled back to his home on Indianapolis’s south side to prepare for the first day of his Senior year at Roncalli High School. Administrators there frequently work with O’Gara to ensure he doesn’t fall behind on school work due to his racing schedule.
“When I have to travel for racing, Roncalli works with me and helps me keep up with my work,” O’Gara said. “School has always been first and that is a huge thing with SFHR owners Andy and Sarah as well as my parents. I finished last year off with a 4.0 GPA because it’s really important to me.”
As for the future, O’Gara has his eyes set on racing in the Indianapolis 500.
“I would really like to be in Firestone Indy Lights in the next couple years and race in the Indy 500 eventually,” he said. “That’s something I’ve always dreamed about.”