A local formula race-car driver is looking for community support as he follows his dreams of making it to the Indy 500.
Daniel Burkett, 18, is looking for votes for a sponsorship deal with Champion Spark Plug’s Search for a Champion contest.
"If I get this $50,000 I will move up to the next level, that’s the bottom line," Burkett said. "People can help me achieve my goal of becoming an Indy car driver and this sponsorship money will allow me to do that."
The 2013 St. Paul’s High School graduate has put off business school at the University of Winnipeg to focus on his racing career. Currently Burkett races for Belardi Auto Racing as part of the Mazda Road to Indy development program.
Burkett discovered the art of racing from his father, Murray.
"He raced for years," Burkett said. "As a kid he would always take me to the track in Gimli, or anywhere really, and I was just always around it. When I was nine my dad just showed up one day, and he had bought a go-kart."
From there, Burkett’s love affair with racing only grew. When his teacher in kindergarten asked the class to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up, Burkett’s classmates drew the typical police officer or firefighter, and he drew a race-car driver.
So seven years before Burkett could get a driver’s licence he started go-kart racing competitively. From 2006 to 2009 he was the Manitoba Karting Association champion, the Canadian 2011 Shifter Kart rookie of the year, a Team Canada member in 2011 for the world karting championships in Dubai, UAE, was ranked fourth best overall in 2012 for Canadian karting, and in 2013 he was signed to Belardi Auto Racing.
Burkett said the first time he drove a formula car it blew him away.
"It was absolutely terrifying. Cornering at 150-170km/hr was absolutely insane. Feeling that speed — it just didn’t stop, my initial reaction was ‘OK well, when is it going to level out?’ First time I was in the car I was absolutely blown away," he said.
While in Winnipeg, Burkett is focused on getting sponsors and his physical fitness. He trains at Elite Performance (91 Lowson Cres.) because when you’ve got three to four Gs on your body, you’ve still got to maintain a strong hold on the wheel.
"If your arms give out for one second you will crash the car," Burkett said. "You’ve got to be 100% on your game all the time."
Living in Winnipeg, there isn’t much in-car training Burkett can do, especially because his car isn’t even in the country — it’s in Indianapolis, Ind.
"In these winter months a lot of the time we’ll go to Alabama," Burkett said. "Other than that in the summertime we’ll pretty much travel wherever we can… it is expensive, usually we are away for a weekend, three or four days, but on an actual race weekend it’s a four- or five-day event."
This is not a cheap sport, Burkett said — it can cost over $300,000 a year to cover expenses such as crash damage, travel, and engine repair. This is why Burkett needs sponsorship money, including the cash he hopes to win through the Search for a Champion contest.
The Search for a Champion contest ends Feb. 2, vote for Burkett at alwaysachampion.com