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Rookie Dare carries Brazilian pride at Indy news services

Airton Dare
Airton Dare hopes to follow in Emerson Fittipaldi's footsteps all the way to Victory Lane.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Along with his helmet, uniform and driving shoes, Indianapolis 500 rookie candidate Airton Dare also packs a Brazilian flag.

It's for waving when he wins a race. He almost did exactly that at Las Vegas last month when he carried the lead in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series race into the last pit stop only to have his gearbox malfunction as he pulled away from a very fast visit for fuel and tires.

Now it would be even more special if he could swing the flag aloft in Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28.

Emerson Fittipaldi is the only Brazilian to win the Indianapolis 500. He did it in 1989 and 1993.

"In Brazil," Dare said, "soccer is the No. 1 sport in the country, and motor sports is second. Really, what the Brazilian fans like to see is a Brazilian guy win. When you're a Brazilian driver, you are not driving for my team or for me and my family. You carry the whole country with you. You have to drive for the country."

"In Brazil, it's something like when you win a race you have to show that you are Brazilian so the people in Brazil get excited about that. And that's good for the country.

"I have my Brazilian flag. For sure, if I win a race somebody's going to show up with a Brazilian flag."

Dare drove for three years in Indy Lights. He scored two victories, waving his flag at Detroit and Nazareth, Pa. He has three Indy Racing races under his belt, finishing 11th at Walt Disney World Speedway, 22nd at Phoenix International Raceway and a disappointing 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He passed his rookie orientation test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early April in the TeamXtreme/ G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

"The Indy 500, the name, it's a big deal," he said. "I'm trying to put in my head it's only another race, because I've seen that it can change your mind. If you think about I have to go in Indy 500 and you are, like, putting this in your head, I'm not sure that is something good for you. I'm trying to take this as a normal race. I know it's not, but I try to do that."

Dare said that running the first few laps into the turns at Indy scared him a little, but then he became accustomed to the speed. Now he'd like to win, if not the race, at least the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award.

"What I'm looking for is to be up there in the front, and also if I can win rookie of the year that would be nice," he said. "I really look forward to being up there at the front."

Drivers gain their initial racing experience in a lot of ways -- quarter-midgets, go-karts, off-road cars, etc. Dare's racing introduction was totally different. He raced jet skis.

Dare, 22, compares jet skiing to motocross. He was racing at 60 mph on water in 1995 before he retired.

A jet ski teammate who also raced cars invited Dare to join him racing Formula Fiat endurance events. He raced for a year in that series and then moved up to Formula Chevrolet in Brazil. This led him to the Indy Lights series in the United States in 1997.

When it came time to make the last step to the big leagues of open-wheel auto racing, he chose the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. He is the only Brazilian racing full-time in the Northern Light Series, but Brazilian veteran Raul Boesel will attempt to qualify at Indy.

"I think I'm really looking forward for Indy, for the United States and the IRL," he said. "I really want to make my name strong here this year."
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