Viso wary of the oval

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

E.J. Viso was not a fan of oval racing.

He had never seen an oval race, had no interest in being part of one and wasn't expecting to be in an oval field when he signed to drive for HVM Racing.

Yet following the merger between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League, the rookie driver found himself gripping the wheel at 200 miles per hour, inches apart from 24 other cars in Homestead, Fla.

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"It was tough, the first laps I had in Homestead, I was a bit scared," Viso said. "Being right next to another car, only inches away, going 200 miles per hour and running right next to a wall ..."

Viso, 23, finished 17th in his inaugural race.

IMPRESSIVE

He followed that up with an impressive fourth-place finish in his second race - the street course in St. Petersburg, Fla., a week later. It was the first of three top-10 finishes so far this season for the native of Caracas, Venezuela.

"It's been a steep learning curve," Viso said. "I never saw an oval race in my life before Homestead. I had to look at the video about 10 or 20 times before I got in the car. I don't like ovals, but it is what it is and it's what we have and we need to drive it. I have no option.

"I just have to try and do my best. We've been working really hard, we're not a huge team and we are trying to use our resources to the maximum and that's what we've done so far."

HVM competed as Minardi Team USA last season on the ChampCar series. Co-owned by Keith Wiggins and Paul Stoddart, they won a pair of races with Robert Doornbos behind the wheel and had six other podium finishes.

After the merger, Wiggins took over the team outright and brought Viso on board.

Heading into the Rexall Edmonton Indy, Viso sits 17th in the driver standings.

"The original plan was that we were going to do ChampCar together," Wiggins said. "When all this came about (merger) we had to make a decision. So there was a bit of a holding pattern while we decided whether we were going to do the oval.

"It was more of a gamble than it was before. There have been a few bits and pieces here and he's made a few rookie mistakes. But he's proved that he's quick and we think after a year under his belt, he's going to be real competitive."

INTO THE WALL

In yesterday's first practice session, Viso spun his car exiting Turn 1 and put it into the wall. He was one of three drivers to spin coming out of that particular turn.

"It's such a bumpy place and there is a lot of grip missing and I just lost the rear of the car into Turn 1," Viso said. "It all seemed to happen in slow motion; I wasn't even at full power yet. I was just going into the corner and the rear of car came loose, there was nothing I could do."

Viso's racing career started on a go-kart track in Venezuela. At age 11 he left his homeland to compete in Europe.

In Italy he was practically racing professionally at that age and moved up the ladder graduating to open-wheel racing, spending time in the U.S. and England before signing with HVM.

Along with his impressive finishes at St. Petersburg and Milwaukee - where he placed eighth on an oval - Viso has stirred things up by being an aggressive driver.

At Watkins Glen, N.Y., earlier this month, Panther Racing's Vitor Meira accused Viso of running off the road and into a tire barrier.

"The drivers here complain a lot about every manoeuvre I do," Viso said.

"But I'm not going to change my style. I'm just trying to keep the car on the track and be clean. You don't want to give any other space to the drivers.

"Paul Tracy is a great driver and a lot of people complain about him, but he gets away with everything because he's driving clean but at the maximum at the same time.

"That's the way every driver should be."


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