CONCORD, N.C. – From the Earnhardt family in NASCAR to the Andretti family of IndyCar racing, family traditions have long been rooted in auto racing across the world. Now a young third-generation racer is making headlines at the Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Since the age of 4, Enzo Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula 1 World Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, has been racing his way up the ranks in hopes of one day joining his grandfather as one of the best drivers of all-time.
Not only has Enzo’s grandfather given the young Fittipaldi racing lessons and guidance, but so has his uncle, road course specialist Max Papis and cousin, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, Christian Fittipaldi.
Last summer, Enzo, now 12, competed in the Bandolero Bandits division at Charlotte Motor Speedway, competing in eight of the 10 races and finishing in the top-five on three occasions. Enzo also raced in the Go-Kart US Grand Nationals in Mooresville, N.C., along with Papis, and drove to a second place finish in the Mini Max Class.
“Max gives me tips a lot in the oval and road course,” Enzo said. “I appreciate all the racing advice I receive from my family.”
Moving up to the Legend Car Young Lion division from go-karts and Bandoleros can be a hard adjustment for a young racer, but Enzo has made a smooth transition, winning back-to-back heat races in rounds one and two of the 2014 Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series.
“It is going to be tough, especially since I will be missing two races to compete in the Go-Karts US Grand Nationals again this summer,” Enzo said. “But, I hope to reach the podium and remain in the top-10 for points at the Summer Shootout.”
Almost three years ago, Enzo’s father, Carlos Da Cruz, decided to move his family to Davidson, N.C. from Miami to be closer to the heart of motorsports country, while Enzo’s older brother, Pietro, became the first Latin American NASCAR champion in the Limited Late Model category in 2011.
Pietro, 18, is currently dominating racing in the United Kingdom, leading the Protyre Formula Renault series having won four of the six races, a winning tradition that Enzo hopes to emulate.
“I want to race in NASCAR and Formula 1 someday,” Enzo said with a grin. “I have been racing across the United States and hopefully can continue the success.”
Enzo, who currently leads the GoPro Motorplex Mini Max Go-Kart Division after three rounds, will try to reach the top of the leaderboard in the faster and more challenging Legend Car Young Lions division.
“Racing in the Summer Shootout feature race is much more competitive,” Da Cruz said. “The older kids have more experience, but Enzo is doing a great job.”
After winning the second heat on Monday night, Enzo started the 20-lap feature race on the outside of the front row next to eventual race-winner Carson Ferguson. As is the case in many Young Lion races, things quickly got bumpy for the young Fittipaldi.
“Unfortunately in the feature race (on Monday night) I got freight-trained at the start,” Enzo said. “The car was just really loose because we had oil on the tires and I dropped all the way back to ninth.”
With summer storms cutting short the Legend Car races on Tuesday night, Enzo, like other racers on the track, was very loose as the wet surface brought out several cautions and pushed Enzo back to the middle of the pack.
“Enzo did very good (considering the conditions), especially that he is now racing Legends,” Da Cruz said. “I think the more he is learning, the more competitive and beneficial it will be.”
Fans can watch Enzo and other aspiring professional auto racers when the 21st annual Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series continues Tuesday, June 17. In addition to a full slate of Legend Cars and Bandoleros, fans can see area mascots, including Lug Nut, race go-karts head-to-head in Mascot Mania.
Tickets for the Summer Shootout Series are $7 for adults and are available in advance at the speedway ticket office or at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Kids 13 and under get in free. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action starting at 5:10 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 6:45 p.m. and feature races are scheduled to conclude by approximately 10 p.m.
For tickets to the Summer Shootout Series, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
For live updates during the Summer Shootout Series, follow hashtag #SummerShootout on Twitter. To join in on the conversation simply include #SummerShootout in your tweet.
New this year, fans can now watch recaps on television—nationally on MAVTV and locally on WCCB Charlotte. A 30-minute recap show will air in the Charlotte area on CW-affiliate WCCB, channel 11 on Time Warner Cable, at 1 p.m. on the Saturday following the Tuesday-night event. Nationally, fans can see a 30-minute recap show on popular cable TV network MAVTV. The recap will air on Thursday afternoons on MAVTV between noon and 4 p.m.
By Jen Hebert, Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photo credit: CMS/Tami Pope