INDIANAPOLIS — Chad Boat had an easy time catching the racing bug.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his dad Billy was a racing hotshoe, a winner of numerous USAC Midget races on the west coast, including the famed Turkey Night Grand Prix for three consecutive years.
At that point, Billy Boat headed off to Indianapolis, where he won the pole for the great A.J. Foyt at the 1998 Indianapolis 500.
It was an environment that Chad latched onto and one which provided him opportunities to hang around some of the most legendary figures in the sport, even if he didn’t even know it at the time.
“I went to every race I could with my dad when I was first allowed to go,” Chad said. “I still remember going to all the races and getting to hang with A.J. Foyt. At the time, I didn’t quite realize how cool that really was. I probably have more A.J. Foyt autographs than anybody out there. It was definitely cool growing up in that environment.”
Nearly two decades later, Chad Boat — now 25-years-old and an established racer himself — aims to join his father, as well as Foyt, in becoming the next driver to transition from the dirt track bullrings of USAC to the Indianapolis 500.
The first step in that process began when Chad inked a deal last month to run a pair of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires oval races for Belardi Auto Racing, beginning this Sunday afternoon, when he makes his debut in a No. 84 that sports the same black scheme and number as his Tucker-Boat Motorsports midget on the USAC trail.
Chad first became familiarized with the car during an extensive test at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago. He had to adapt to a few elements that he hadn’t experienced in quite some or, in some cases, ever.
But, now that he’s gone through the initial stages of acclimation with a rear engine car and wings, Boat feels confident he can have a good showing this weekend.
“A couple weeks ago, I was able to do the open test at Iowa,” the younger Boat said. “I ran around 200 laps over two days. It was good to get acclimated with the car. It’s been a little while since I was on asphalt. It was the most downforce I’d ever had on-track.”
“Testing allows me to process everything over the weeks leading up to the race and gives me a chance to look at the data and get a good idea of what I have to do as a driver going into race weekend. I’m able to look at my teammate’s data traces and see if they’re a little bit better than me. If I can use all the tools that have been given to me, there’s no reason we can’t go to Iowa and be successful.”
Billy Boat made the move to formula cars a decade before he ever made an appearance at Indy. In 1986 and 1987, he made 11 starts in the American Racing Series, a forerunner of the Indy Lights series of today. Billy competed on both the roads, the streets and the ovals as a 20-year-old, scoring a career-best third-place finish with the series at Phoenix International Raceway in 1986.
With similar experience in his back pocket, Billy has been able to lend some advice to Chad, who will have his father in his ear as a spotter this Sunday.
“Dad is definitely not a bad person to have in your corner helping you out,” Chad said. “He has experience in all sorts of cars and, obviously, has a lot of experience in IndyCar.”
“I believe the IndyCar and the Lights car translate fairly close. Obviously, you’re going a lot faster in an IndyCar compared to the lights car, but Dad will be there all weekend and is going to spot for me. Having him up on the roof gives me confidence with what I’m doing and he’ll give me some pointers on what we can do to pick up that elusive last two-tenths or however much we need to find.”
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