John Edwards - Step by Step, a Telling Bio, by Jamie Longmuir

(August 16, 2009) —Throughout John Edwards career, he has rewritten several youngest records – while most drivers aim to race at the highest possible level as soon as possible, as Edwards has discovered, advancing too quickly can be folly.

John’s career began in karting at the age of 8 – not unusually early for racecar drivers, who sometimes begin karting as soon as they can walk. John explains, “My dad was racing Skip Barber cars for fun – the regional series that they have for anyone. I started going to the races and just loved it. My dad got me a go-kart and saw that I enjoyed it. In the beginning, it was sort of a father son thing that just evolved into a career. I started following Formula 1 and IndyCar, and just loved it. I loved being there, following it on TV and I loved driving.

“I remember when I first drove out in a go-kart; I was just so full
of anticipation and not sure if I could do it or what it would be like. As soon as I went out of the pits and onto the front straight away and went to full power – just felt the wheel, felt the pedals and felt what was in my control and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I knew that I loved that way more than baseball or soccer or anything that I was trying at home.”

What was exceptional was the speed at which John advanced up the racing ladder. At age 12, John would become the youngest ever licensed open wheel racing driver. The next year, competing in the Skip Barber Dodge Formula, he would become the youngest winner in open-wheel racing history. Later that year, he would be chosen for the exclusive Red Bull Formula 1 Driver search – a program aimed at producing an American F1 driver.

“I was 13 years old, and was one of the three winners to go to Europe. So I was 13 years old driving a Formula 3 car in the final test – that was unbelievable, something I thought would never happen… I struggled a bit, but it was a judged competition, so they knew about the lack of experience and saw that I had the ability to learn the car through the 2 test days that we had…. I really had hoped to participate that year, and maybe go back the next year and try and win it, but I was fortunate enough to get noticed that year and [be chosen as the 2004 winner].”

Like many other drivers involved in the Red Bull driver development program, John quickly found out that the real competition had just begun. Over the years, Red Bull has become notorious for placing its drivers in some of the most competitive junior championships in the world and expecting quick results. Though extremely difficult circumstances for a beginner, there are few sponsors a young driver would rather have. For a 13 year old driver, it may have been a bit too much. John explains, “It was great – Red Bull was a very cool sponsor because they gave you so many opportunities, but I was, in my opinion, in the series too early... I was in a lot of series as I came up through the ranks to learn, but whatever happened in the offseason, I was put into the next series and again it was the same situation where I needed to learn. I would have good finishes later in the year, but I wasn’t able to get that experience of winning and knowing what it takes to win races and Championships.”

After a baptism of fire in European Racing, at 16 years of age John returned to North America to run in the Atlantic Championship, then the official ladder series of the Champ Car World Series and containing the very best North American drivers who weren’t in Champ Car. John comments, “I’ve learned a lot since then – I think I was too young when I did [Atlantic in 2007], but my sponsor put me in and wanted me to race there. So I did, and I had a so-so year – had a couple of ups, but mostly downs throughout the year.”

Realizing a step back would be healthy for his career, John
moved to the highly competitive Star Mazda Series for 2008. On his way to winning the championship, he would develop the attitude and mental toughness to be successful in a high-level open-wheel series.

“What I lacked before Star Mazda, was the skill to know what it’s like to win a championship, and what it’s like to win races consistently - if you don’t have a good weekend – how you rebound from that. I didn’t get any of that beforehand, so Star Mazda, being a competitive championship gave me that experience…even if I had finished 2nd, I would have known what I did wrong or how I could win it – it’s not all about driving styles.”

While most drivers overrate themselves and their abilities, Edward’s experiences have made him incredibly grounded and mature for his age. With a new American-based Formula 1 team hoping to make the grid in 2010 – USF1, several names including both John and his teammate Jonathon Summerton have been mentioned in conjunction with the seat. While most drivers would do anything for such an opportunity, John has learned from his previous experiences not to get in over his head.

“Personally, I don’t feel like I would want to go to F1 next year. I think it’s too soon. That said, it’s an opportunity that’s there… but for or me, I’m really not pursuing it next year, I think it’s an option to be pursued for 2010 or 2011.”

John, like many drivers, is unsure where he’ll be next year – Europe or North America, but one things for sure, there’s nothing John would rather be doing than racing.

“I think I would be miserable if I wasn’t racing – I have no idea what I would want to do. I’m still going to school, but I can’t imagine what I would want to study or major for in college, because I don’t see myself doing anything else than this.”
John is proudly sponsored by Mazda.

GOZAPIT brought timely updates to John's Website - Thanks GOZAPIT !