At the age of nine, Ryan Norman got the chance to attend the Indianapolis 500, as his dad’s company sponsored Alex Tagliani that season.
“It was fantastic,” he recalled for POPULAR SPEED. “I still remember it in detail today. Just the sound and the speed of the cars was a thrill for me. I come from a motocross background, so I had no idea how fast these cars actually went. Once I felt that I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I need to get into this’.”
Since then, Norman has been working at getting himself in the Verizon IndyCar Series one day, and he will take the next step this season. Norman announced in December that he’d be driving the No. 48 Flip Side Mazda for Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series.
“I’m extremely excited about the season coming up,” he said. “I’m with a great team. Andretti Autosport has a great team with four great drivers, and I think I will be able to learn a lot from not only the drivers but the engineers. It should be a good learning experience for my career and hopefully will lead up to another year in Indy Lights and then IndyCar after that.”
Norman said he made the decision to race in Indy Lights to put himself in front of the Verizon IndyCar Series team owners.
“All the teams are there, and you are on the same race weekend as IndyCar, and that’s what I want to do,” he said. “So really I think to be in front of all the teams and show them what you can do, learn the tracks, and do the ovals – and I think it’s a good atmosphere. You have people coming from all over the world to compete, so it’s a good proving ground to showcase you’re ready for the next step.”
Unlike many drivers in the series, Norman is entering the final tier of the Mazda Road to Indy without experience in the previous two levels. Instead, Norman is coming off winning the Formula Atlantic Championship Series Championship last year with 10 wins and nine poles in 16 races. While not the same thing, Norman feels the experience will help with the cars handling close together, and the lessons learned from his engineer about footwork. He notes by knowing how to drive the car properly with balancing the gas pedal and brake will help in making sure to get the most out the car.
Entering his rookie season, Norman admits he’s not sure what to expect heading into his first race weekend at St. Petersburg next month. However, hopes are to be able to run all the laps and perhaps walk away with a top-five finish.
“As the year goes on and I get more experience and used to the Mazda Road to Indy thing, I think I should be able to win some races,” he added.
If everything comes together and Norman can walk away as the series champion, it awards him a scholarship worth three events with a Verizon IndyCar Series team, including the Indianapolis 500. To be able to run the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is something that Norman says would be a turning point in his life.
“I think that would be the greatest experience, and I’d be so honored and thankful for that,” he said. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity, and I think the opportunity to be able to go there and try to prove myself would be awesome, and I’d give it everything that I had to bring a great result.”
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