As a rookie in the IndyCar Series in 2008, EJ Viso's migration from the European formula ranks involved a steep learning curve, especially racing on ovals for the first time, but the diminutive Venzuelan made people sit up and take notice – and intends to continue doing so in 2009.
Viso's challenge was daunting, as he faced not only a new series, but also a new-ish country – he raced Skip Barber early in his career - a new race car and new racetracks. However, his aggressive style served him well and forced others to take notice, earning the 23-year old a top five finish in the season's second race, on the streets of St Petersburg, and sixth on the road course at Infineon.
He drew the most attention, however, on the ovals, where he finished eighth at Milwaukee and put in storming drives through the field elsewhere, not least from 28th to 14th at Texas, 19th to tenth at Richmond, 21st to 13th at Kentucky, and by running in the top ten at the Chicagoland finale after starting 26th.
Passing that many cars didn't always lead to friendly waves from his competitors though, with Viso drawing criticism for some of his aggressive moves.
“A lot of people had a few comments about him,” 2004 champion Tony Kanaan noted, “I personally had no problem with him, so I can't say whether he's really aggressive or not, it's just the way he races. It was his first year, and I think he learned a lot. He's definitely going to be around the front more often this year.”
For his part, Viso makes no apologies for his ascents through the field, even if his results did not often reflect the efforts of the P1 Motorsport driver.
“This is my job,” he insisted, “and this is the way I've raced all my life. Racing is a risky sport, everyone knows that, but I didn't mean to make anybody angry. I also don't think you need to give anything to anybody here. You need to respect and get to that line of respect and the limit, and that's where I like to be.
“On occasion on the ovals, I was still learning and they made some comments but, for sure, I wasn't trying to make anybody angry. I love being here, and a year under my belt has brought me a lot of knowledge, and we're starting in a much better position.”
This time around, Viso returns with a much higher comfort level in his second season with HVM Racing.
“The expectations for the new season are much higher than last year because we have our first season under our belts and that means a lot,” he said, “Last year, we started the season with no knowledge at all – of anything. All the tracks were new for us, especially the ovals. It's something that's very different to what I used to know to do.
“This year, we're positioned much better. Our expectations for this year? A realistic position for the end of the season is going to be to finish in the top eight. That would be a good achievement for us. Obviously, however, some podiums are possible for us too.”