Race car driver Andrew Palmer '16 is set to compete in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend, another sign that the Pomona College sophomore's motorsports career is taking off.
A kart racer since he was 10 years old, Palmer broke into the international racing scene in November when he won the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo World Finals in Rome, beating many more experienced racers. And just last month, Palmer finished third overall driving an Audi R8 at the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Now Palmer will zip through the streets of Long Beach in one of Southern California's best-known races, which draws more than 200,000 spectators over the weekend. Competing again in the Audi, Palmer has practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and, if all goes well, a Pirelli World Challenge race to win on Sunday.
"As a kid I used to dream about competing in an event like this," says Palmer, adding that the whole experience will be "truly surreal. "
And with the race so close the campus, Palmer is excited that his Pomona friends and fans can come see him compete. "Many of my friends always wonder what I do with my time on most weekends, and this week they will get to experience it firsthand."
Since his breakthrough race only months ago, 19-year-old Palmer, who says the second word he uttered as a toddler was "car," is now finding his way through a world of sponsors and press conferences and autograph seekers – all while trying to get his class work done. "Last two nights, I was up till 3 a.m. doing problem sets," says Palmer, a mathematical economics major.
Racing itself is its own form of education for Palmer. "I describe it as one big science experiment," Palmer says. "You have this machine and you have yourself and you have a bunch of variables you can change; you have a bunch of controlled variables. We go out and look at the data and say, ‘did that feel better? Was it empirically better?, OK that was a step in the right direction; let's change another thing.' It's a constant cycle, developing the car further and further and as a consequence you develop yourself further."