DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The upcoming American Speed Association Transcontinental Series Free State 500 at the Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom, South Africa on Sunday, January 31, 2010 will be a true international competition. John Mickel, a champion driver from Cambridge, UK has accepted his invitation to compete in the inaugural event.
"I felt very privileged to receive a phone call from Dennis Huth asking me to race in such a prestigious event," Mickel said about receiving an invitation from the ASA President. "As a racing driver, I love to get behind the wheel whenever I can but it is even more exciting to be involved in an international motorsport contest especially as it will be the first ever ASA race to venture outside North America. Having been involved in the first ever race in SCSA when it was launched in Europe, I have an understanding of how exciting and important an event like this can be to the drivers, locals, businesses and authorities and most of all showing the fans how thrilling oval racing can be."
Mickel was the first SCSA (Stock Car Speed Association) champion in 2001 and in 2002 he ventured over to the United States to try his hand at American stock car racing. In 2004, he competed in the American Speed Association National Series events at Charlotte and Atlanta where he finished on the lead lap in both events. Mickel said that the SCSA was a European version of ASA when it was launched in 2001, "We were hopeful that it could become the European stepping stone to oval racing in the US. During the years that we ran in the SCSA Championship, we had many victories including the inaugural Championship title. This put us in a great position to place our experience in the States. I was involved in SCSA from the very beginning and I helped coach the European drivers through what we called "Rookie Training." I hope that all the South African drivers enjoy the experience and I wish them every success in becoming familiar with racing on super speedways."
In 2005, he made his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway driving for Bobby Hamilton Racing. Since that time, he has made six other starts with the last coming in 2008 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "The experience we gained from working with teams in the US was invaluable and it created a platform for us to build upon," Mickel said. "I loved every second of it and it makes me hungry for more involvement and our plan is to do a full season in NASCAR."
That hunger has been well noticed by famous car owner Dick Midgley. Midgley is very familiar with taking American stock car racing overseas as he has ventured with Dennis Huth to past events in Australia and Japan along with preparing Trucks in the past for Mickel. He is excited to be preparing a car for Mickel for the ASA Free State 500. "He can definitely drive, he has the experience and he has plenty of seat time in a car," Midgley said. "The thing that really stands out is that he has the desire. I really like his attitude and I think he can get the job done. I know that John would like to come back and do more ASA racing in the United States."
"John will be a very valuable asset for our event," Dennis Huth, ASA President said. "Not only with his talent behind the wheel but with his coaching experience to young European drivers, the South African drivers will learn a lot from him as well as he will take away a lot as well from this adventure. He also has experience as a television commentator in auto racing, so he will be a great communicator with the world media covering this event."
Most of Mickel's experience has come on oval tracks in Europe, "Oval racing in the UK is becoming more popular thanks to the live coverage of NASCAR on Sky Sports television. Small oval racing has always been popular amongst drivers here, which is where my racing experience comes from, however it would be good to see far more speedways in the UK," Mickel explained. "The European super speedways are less banked than many in the US. The European tracks are much like Indianapolis or Pocono. The typical US super speedways such as Charlotte and Atlanta have much steeper banking making them much faster tracks. But nothing can compare to the US fan base in motorsport where the whole family follows the season and sets up a home at each track with their barbecues and beers."
"This event is set to be a 'Championship Between the Continents' and the South African Government wants to make it one of the premier motorsport events in the world," Mickel exclaimed. "I am looking forward to working with the South African drivers and exchanging knowledge and experience with them and I am very hopeful that I will have a chance to explore a beautiful country. On track, I will be giving 100%."
You can learn more about John Mickel by either visiting www.johnmickel.com or www.torquespeed.com.
The American drivers invited will not only get a chance to compete on one of the finest racetracks outside of the United States, but will enjoy many off-track opportunities to see the various sights of South Africa; this includes a private tour of "Savannah" the wildlife preserve that holds the distinction of being just one of three accredited worldwide breeders of the Cheetah.
To learn more about Phakisa Freeway, visit www.phakisa.com.
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