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Jul 10, 2013 - 08:33 AM
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Teen Owner/Driver Di Leo Aims High
Posted by: newsla on Jul 10, 2013 - 08:29 AM
IndyCar News
Teen Owner/Driver Di Leo Aims High


Matthew Di Leo doesn't wish to be the next Paul Tracy, though some of the former CART champion's attributes are being emulated by the fellow Canadian.

 

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Motivation, intertwined with a solid work ethic and perseverance, already are paying dividends for the Innisfil, Ontario, resident, who's the lone owner/driver in Firestone Indy Lights. Oh, and he's only 18 years old.

Di Leo, who graduated from Innisfil Secondary School in late June, will be competing on the Exhibition Place circuit in the No. 56 black and orange MDL Racing Firestone Indy Lights car. He debuted in the series at Long Beach in April after two seasons competing in the USF2000 Championship - a rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder program.

Fostering his dream to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series came years earlier in a grandstand watching the Toronto Indy car race unfold.

"My dream has been to be a race car driver. Watching Paul Tracy when I was a kid at Toronto got me so pumped, with the Canadian home crowd cheering him on," said Di Leo, who began his quest in karting at age 9. "It was a great experience for me and I wanted to be a race car driver and represent Canada in a great way. It's the same today.

"I'm so excited to be racing in my hometown. Hopefully, I'll be racing there in IndyCars."

Ambitious but not lacking counsel, Di Leo knows it will take a modest amount of seasoning before attempting to leap to the IZOD IndyCar Series. He's already accelerated his career by moving from USF2000 to Firestone Indy Lights, leapfrogging the middle rung on the ladder system, the Pro Mazda Championship. Adding the responsibilities of team ownership was another big step.

Di Leo finished fifth in the USF2000 standings in 2011, with a podium finish in Baltimore. He returned to the series in 2012 with his own team, MDL Racing, and recorded four podiums en route to placing fourth in the championship. Graduating to Firestone Indy Lights has been another form of education.

"My mechanic, Adam Kretschmer, has been such a great influence in that he's often said anything is possible and if you really put your mind to it you can do anything in racing and in life," said Di Leo, who debuted with a fifth-place finish on the Long Beach street circuit. "That's a good attitude to have, and one I've reminded myself of often.

"It was a big step - a scary thought in itself -- to being a USF2000 team owner to an Indy Lights team owner and driver. Being a driver in Indy Lights is a big step and it's had its challenges, but I've received lots of support from everyone.

"I was confident in my engineer, my mechanics and my parents to make a decision that was best for me so I trusted them and made the leap of faith to Indy Lights. It was almost like I was thrown to the wolves because I didn't get in much testing or practice time, but I learned a lot at Long Beach."

He's participated in on-track testing in the interim, getting comfortable in the 450-horsepower car honing all facets of his race craft and in preparation for the Toronto race weekend. Short term, Di Leo plans a full season in Firestone Indy Lights in 2014. Long term, he dares to dream.

"The Mazda Road to Indy is so great because it literally shows you the steps to get to IndyCar, and everyone associated wants to help you get there with scholarships and prize money and seminars to make your dream become reality.

"So a full season in Indy Lights next year is what I'm hoping for. You have to get your toes wet before jumping into Lake Ontario."


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