Milka Duno becomes historic third female for Indianapolis 500, first Latina in sporting event. (PRNewsFoto/CITGO)
Milka Duno, the newest driver and third female in the IndyCar Series, will start the 2007 Indianapolis 500 in the middle of the 10th row from the 29th starting position. Duno's run for the spot held the attention of fans as they watched the IndyCar Series rookie from Venezuela come back from a crash that took place on Friday, May 11th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"When I crashed, I felt so bad but everyone was very supportive including the team, the IndyCar Series, all the wonderful fans in Indianapolis, my sponsor CITGO and many of the other drivers," said Duno. "I am really grateful. We proved what a fantastic spirit there is in this team. Everyone worked so hard and we never stopped believing, and now we are in!"
During the first week of practice, Duno damaged the #23 CITGO Dallara Honda in Turn One of the oval racetrack. With the backup car not yet assembled, Duno was forced to sit out the first weekend of qualifications while the team worked hard to repair the primary car.
Further hindering her progress, when practice started again on Wednesday weather conditions were challenging with high winds. Therefore, the SAMAX Motorsport team elected to run only a few installation laps to make sure the car was completely repaired. On Thursday, Duno ran a flat running top speed of 213.460 miles per hour. On Friday, the driver improved her speed to 218.025 miles per hour.
The Miami resident was first in line when qualifying began at noon on Saturday, May 19 and ran four laps at an increased average speed of 219.228 miles per hour. From that moment, Duno and the SAMAX team would wait almost 30 hours until the conclusion of the infamous Sunday, May 20th Bump Day to confirm their position in the "Greatest Spectacle of Racing."
"This is the most amazing day of my racing career," said Duno. "I have never experienced so much pressure over the last week or so much tension than the last two days."
Peter Baron, SAMAX team owner, said "I'm so proud of Milka for exceeding everyone's expectations coming into Indianapolis. This has to be the hardest track for any driver and despite the setback in the first week, she really proved what a strong character she is to bounce back and qualify. I'm also really proud of the team for all their hard work this month...we came up with a plan to build Milka's speed and confidence...we stuck to the plan and it worked."
Sponsor CITGO added, "We are so very proud of Milka's determination to make history as the first Latina driver and third female in the Indianapolis 500 and to not let anything stand in her way," said Felix Rodriquez, president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corporation. "It's because of her focus on this level of excellence that she continues to be an amazing role model for Venezuelans, Americans and young women everywhere who seek to set goals and make their dreams come true."
CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, marketer and transporter of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, refined waxes, asphalt and other industrial products. The company has been a major sponsor of American racing for 21 years in such series as NASCAR, Grand-Am Racing and now the IndyCar Series. CITGO is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For more information on CITGO visit http://www.citgo.com/