Playin’ with Hot wheels
August 6, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Racing career accelerating for Skyline student Andrew Evans
When Andrew Evans is strapped into the seat of his 1,600 cc Spectrum Honda and is breezing down a straightaway at 140 mph, life is perfect.
“It’s a passion, and I love doing it,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Evans, a 15-year-old student at Skyline High School, has had gasoline vapors in his blood since he first began racing go karts eight years ago. What originally started as a hobby, however, has rocketed into the category of potential career after he became the youngest driver in the history of Lynx Racing Academy, which Evans describes as “one of the most highly-decorated Formula Atlantic teams of all time.”
Since his signing with Lynx in April, Evans has had a chance to compete in some high-octane environments. Alongside teammate Alex Keyes of Folsom, Calif., he’s put in some strong performances in the 2013 Pacific Formula F1600 series, which encompasses 15 races over six weekends at four West Coast tracks.
With four races left, Keyes and Evans are holding their own: Keyes sits in third place with 187 points and Evans is fourth with 173. The season continues Sept. 7-8 in Buttonwillow, Calif., and Oct. 4-6 in Las Vegas.
Each of the F1600 stops is comprised of two or three races, and Evans has found himself with a top five finish eight times thus far. It’s a good start to what he hopes will blossom into bigger things, although he admits he has a lot of choices to make.
Becoming a professional driver has many paths, and he could lean toward closed-wheel racing like NASCAR or open-wheel racing like Indy cars or Formula One. Many professional circuits have feeder systems that Evans would have to navigate, similar to a baseball player working through the minor leagues.
Evans has offers from multiple teams for next season, but he hasn’t made a decision yet.
“It’s a matter of finding the correct people we’re going with for next year,” he said. “But Lynx Racing has given me an opportunity this year, and it’s just been fantastic so far.”
Evans and Keyes have earned plaudits from Lynx Racing officials, who hadn’t fielded an academy racing team for nine years. Neither driver has won yet, but each led a race for the first time during June’s trip to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
“We’re very pleased with the progress that Alex and Andrew are making,” co-owner Peggy Haas said in a news release.
“The educational philosophy that provides the foundation of the Lynx Racing Academy is proving to be just as relevant and powerful as it was back when we were winning Atlantic Championships and graduating drivers to IndyCar,” co-owner Jackie Doty said.
The Spectrum cars that Evans and Keyes race feature a Honda engine, and are developed outside of the U.S. Evans said the cars have suspensions, a key difference compared to go karts, and make for much faster turns.
While on the track, the drivers lean on Lynx manager Steve Cameron, data engineer Rick Cameron and two mechanics. They’re constantly looking for ways to speed up, from chassis adjustments to tire maintenance.
“If we manage the tires so they have less wear on them, we could have a better run throughout the weekend compared to our competitors,” Evans explained.
Safety advances – such as fire-resistant uniforms, and the HANS device for reducing head and neck injuries – are good for the sport, and it’s largely eased the minds of Andrew’s parents, Beverly and Paul.
“He’s actually a very good driver, so I have a lot of confidence in Andrew, but in any race, things can happen,” Beverly Evans said.
“Certainly, the dangers are there,” Paul Evans added. “I’ve got to say, I’m most nervous before he goes on the track, and then when I see him on the track, it’s like, ‘Wow. He’s OK.’”
The teenager tries to stay humble and generous. He has helped raise money for Team Seattle, which has twice won the 24 Hours of Daytona and has given more than $5 million to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
He’s also an avid runner and mountain biker, which has improved his endurance and fitness levels, a huge key to success in racing.
“The physical demand is absolutely insane,” he said. “Formula One drivers, for example, are some of the most fit athletes in the world. … For myself, if I can get a physical and mental gain over other drivers, that can benefit me on the track.”