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Alexis Rainsford

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Alexis Rainsford
Alexis 2012.jpg
Age 28
Nationality USA.png American
TM Master Cup Series
Car # 27
Years Competed 2006-2013
Debut Season 2006
Current Team Gessler Richter MC Team
Former Team(s) Volpi Racing Team
Manticore Engineering
Championships 2 (2008, 2010)
Pole Positions 3(?)
Wins 10
First Start 2006 Round of Carbondale
First Win 2007 Round of France
Last Win 2011 Karjala Grand Prix
Last Start 2013 Round of Indianapolis
TM Lights
Years Competed 2004-2006
Debut Season 2005
Former Team(s) Jack Cronin Racing
JC Racing
Championships 1 (2006)
Pole Positions 4
Wins 6
Podiums 8
First Start 2004 TM Lights @ Quincy
First Win 2006 TM Lights @ Carbondale
Last Win 2006 TM Lights @ Decatur
Last Start 2006 TM Lights @ Decatur
TM Canon Driver


Evelyn Alexis Linwood (born November 27, 1985 in Aurora, Illinois), better known as Alexis Rainsford, is an American race car driver and businesswoman, best known for becoming the first woman to win the TM Master Cup Series Driver's Championship, a feat she has accomplished twice. In late 2012, she became the second woman to win a Champ Car race, and the only woman to win a Champ Car race and a TM Master Cup race.

She races under the name Alexis Rainsford, her middle name and her mother's maiden name, instead of her legal name to avoid being labelled as someone whose position was because of her name rather than her ability. Her father, John Linwood, has been a part of Charlie Kaylor's Champ Car Team for over 20 years as an engineer.

Rainsford is best known for carrying #27 in the TM Master Cup Series, usually associated with a scarlet and black livery. She formerly owned a TM Lights team, Alexisports, but she was seldom involved with the operation of the team, using her name to help some of the former JC Racing engineers keep their team alive. She sold off her share in the team to Lynxe after the team was able to sustain itself.

Rainsford holds a business degree, which she achieved in three years (something she later admitted was difficult despite scheduling her classes for one day a week), and is one of only two TM Master Cup series champions to hold a college degree, the other being Dale Roswell.

She was nicknamed Cherry Bomb in 2005 due to her red hair and her hard-charging driving style that tended to cause collisions, however that name has not been used much lately. She is known by her more popular nickname, the Lady in Red in the TM Master Cup Series, where she now has a reputation for playing calculated mind games. In the Champ Car paddock, she is often referred to as Eve.

In 2013, Rainsford became the first female driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in the race's 102-year history. She is the only driver in history to win the Karjala Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.

Her half-sister, Rachel, is also a racing driver, acting as the first reserve driver for Volpi Racing Team, while her secondary duty is racing in the ARLA Elite Series for Gravity Racing, Inc.

Contents

Early Career

Rainsford started her career in karting, but at the age of 15, she felt that her family name was drawing more attention than her actual abilities on the track. Not wanting to be perceived as a rich kid whose position is due only to daddy's money and connections, and not to raw talent, she began racing under the name 'Alexis Rainsford'. John Linwood was not supportive of her decision initially, since he felt that without the Linwood family connection, prospective teams might not consider her.

She was initially discouraged from racing at higher levels than state karting and midget championships because of the lack of a "plan B" in case her career never took off. After demonstrating that she was capable of managing her school and racing career very well, she continued her career with the blessing of her parents, despite her pseudonym. She progressed up the open wheel ladder to Formula Pacific in 2004. In the first 5 races, she finished no lower than 6th (scoring two podiums) before the team folded, leaving her without a drive. She was not able to find a drive with another team before the end of June, so she turned to TM Lights, intending to keep her racing skills honed.

TM Lights

Rainsford was picked up to be the reserve driver for Jack Cronin Racing in July of 2004 after impressing in a few tests in a second car for the team. In her first road course test with the team at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Rainsford quickly beat Cronin's times. The team then announced she would run the TM Lights race at Quincy and Decatur in the second car. Despite never having seen the Grand Detour of Western Illinois in-person before the weekend, Rainsford qualified 9th on the grid, but crashed early in the race. She continued on, but engine problems ended her day early. She nearly took the pole at Decatur, but was again one of the first cars to crash in the race after she was taken out by Manny Brown.

Cronin then opted to field Rainsford in a #98 car alongside his usual #89 car for 9 races in 2005. Rainsford proved herself to be very fast, but also very accident-prone, crashing out of 4 of her 9 scheduled races. However, she finished in second place twice (at Decatur and Watkins Glen), and since Rookie of the Year was determined by the four best finishes by any rookie driver, Rainsford took out Rookie of the Year by 7 points over Paul Lyons. She was described by her competitors as unnecessarily brash, hotheaded, and as a ride-buyer at the time (she was backed by Calton-Morel as part of their young driver program).

2006

 
 
They're mostly upset because they didn't think a woman would hit back.
 

 

—Rainsford, 2006 Round of Peoria

She was immediately picked up by then-frontrunners JC Racing for their #1 car for the 2006 TM Lights season. Rainsford was also scheduled to make a limited number of starts in the TM Master Cup Series in car #98 as a teammate to Tony Durbin, who would be driving car #1. During testing for the TM Master Cup Series car, Rainsford had regularly gone faster than Durbin, capturing some significant media coverage, as Durbin had shown potential with other teams in previous years. When interviewed, however, Rainsford repeatedly stated that she was only doing research and development for the new Calton-Morel Nova, and that as a result the times should not be taken too seriously.

After allegations that Rainsford's speed was a case of the team giving her a faster car so she could get more media coverage, Durbin quit JC Racing during testing. He wound up in National Racing in January, driving in a fourth car for the team. Durbin's place in the #1 car for JC Racing was filled by Al Kincaid for what turned out to be Kincaid's final season.

Since the TM Lights series and the TM Master Cup series ran companion events every week in 2006, JC Racing fielded a TM Master Cup series car for Rainsford. She was scheduled to debut at Daytona, but was not approved for her Master License. Rainsford proceeded to dominate the TM Lights series, scoring 6 wins throughout the season, in part due to the superiority of the Calton-Morel Nova program in the Lights series, and to her two major points contenders, Paul Lyons and Mark Matthews both missing several races due to injuries late in the season.

On the TM Master Cup series side, she qualified for her debut at Carbondale before being parked midway through the race for causing three of the race's first 5 cautions. The last of these cautions took out Tony Durbin, to which Rainsford was unrepentant. A crash-littered TM Master Cup series campaign was a blot on her record until the Karjala Grand Prix, where Rainsford became the first woman to qualify on the front row of a TM Master Cup series race.

While some expected her to cause an enormous crash in the first corner, Rainsford made a cautious start but pounced on the second lap and managed to lead 26 of the first 33 laps of the race. On lap 34, Rainsford was making her final pit stop of the race, entering the pit lane cautiously, behind the lapped car of Keijo Mikkola. Palmer Stiles pulled out of his pit stall behind her, and was clearly going faster down the pit lane, but both Rainsford and Stiles were given speeding penalties. A late-race caution involving Tyrone Stanley and Steve Marshall helped her out, but Rainsford still rallied to sixth place after an aggressive last lap.

 
 
Oh no... we're getting word that car 98 and car 34 have been given stop and go penalties for speeding in the pits! Disaster for the race leader! Rainsford has been given a stop and go!
 

 

Dan Mullen, Channel 44 commentary.

 
 
I thought she came in too SLOW, I find that hard to believe that she was speeding... either way she lost the lead, because Stanley and Marshall just went by, but I'd like to know where in the pitlane she was caught speeding. Wouldn't be the first time that faulty timing had influenced the outcome of this race.
 

 

Lance Andrews, Channel 44 commentary.

She lacked consistency, but was gaining confidence throughout 2006 before finishing a strong second at Decatur, finishing 7th in points and once again beating Paul Lyons to the Rookie of the Year award. Despite Lyons winning a race, Rainsford had the better of Lyons in the best-five-results rule, though it should be said that for most of the season, Rainsford was the only rookie contender locked into the field with the Top-27 rule and thus could focus more attention on the race rather than on qualifying for the race.

Her feud with Steve Marshall and Tony Durbin began in 2006 after managing to take both of them out during the 2006 Round of Peoria, and after colliding with Durbin again at the 2006 Round of France in which she appeared to run Durbin off the track and onto the grass.

The Rainsford-Durbin feud went under the radar in comparison to the feud between Steve Marshall and Ian Cooper, since Durbin and Rainsford did not get into any further incidents in public for the rest of the season. The two reportedly exchanged a few shots on-track at some of the short ovals. It would, however, become the chief rivalry in the series after Cooper lost his drive with National Racing prior to the last race of the season.

2007

Rainsford became the first woman to sit on the pole for a TM Master Cup series race early in 2007 at the 2007 Round of Rockingham. She won her first race during torrential rain at the last 2007 Round of France with very few laps remaining. Rainsford garnered a massive lead once the rain starting coming down, which she credited to her midget and karting background, however other drivers called it an exceptional display of car control or, in the case of Marshall, accused her of having traction control in her car.

Rainsford was suspended from the 2007 Round of Peoria after causing a pileup during practice. She had been spun by Tony Durbin earlier in the session, and felt it appropriate to retaliate. Another collision with Durbin at Decatur left Rainsford 5th in the final standings. Durbin went on to win the 2007 championship in the same event.

2008

Rainsford won the 2008 TM Master Cup Series championship despite a total of 75 points deducted throughout the season. She earned a dominant victory in the rain at Spa-Francorchamps despite shoving Tony Durbin into the tire wall in the first corner, winning by almost 20 seconds, following that win up with another dominant victory at the Volgoring in Russia, and again in Decatur. Rainsford had begun to show a good deal of car control and was one of only a few drivers to express joy at the concept of racing in the rain at Spa.

Had she not received a points penalty, Rainsford would have locked up the championship before the final race at Decatur, a race she also dominated.

At Spa, Alexis Rainsford showcased her unique victory celebration, putting the car in reverse and doing a straight-line burnout. She was discouraged from doing so by the engineers, but she continued to do so. At the end of 2008, JC Racing announced a switch to Volpi for the 2009 season.

2009

However, Rainsford's title defense would not go as planned as the new Volpi SR560 did not prove to be very fast at the beginning of the year, and she was plagued with unreliability throughout the season. Instability in the team also led to several personnel being poached by other teams, including her crew chief Mike Ross, who worked with Rainsford to win the 2008 title.

Despite scoring only one win throughout the season at the 2009 Round of Russia, Rainsford was well in contention for the title up until the 2009 Round of Canada, when she was taken out by Ryan Nawrocki while coming into the pits. At the end of the year, JC Racing was bought by Cyril Volpi and became known as the Volpi Racing Team, effectively becoming a factory team.

2010

Despite that, the new Volpi VC02 (Volpi Chassis 02) did not appear very fast in pre-season testing, neither did it appear very reliable. During the 2010 Round of Japan practice, Rainsford was one of many cars that were plagued with engine problems as a result of brand new turbo v6 engines for the series. During the race, Rainsford's teammate, Zach Duff, had a fuel injection problem that stacked up a majority of the field, resulting in Rainsford, Arto Kekkonen and Cyrus LaTerza being left to battle for the win. Rainsford stole the win from Kekkonen in the closing stages of the race. Rainsford then made the headlines during second practice for the 2010 Karjala Grand Prix when she got together with Tony Durbin after she blocked him for a couple of moments. Rainsford then went to a backup car, but then she collided with Durbin again during the late stages of Practice 2. She then went on to get together with Durbin's teammate Brian Sendack in third practice, only this time Rainsford was taken out, forcing her to start the race in her teammate Zach Duff's backup car. In the main race itself though, more tempers would flare. When Sendack and Rainsford were leaving the pits during the first round of pit stops, he made and unintentional block of her in turn 1. Sendack lost some momentum coming out of the corner, which gave Rainsford the opportunity to turn him around and into the wall in turn 2, taking him out of the running for the win. The officials decided to give her a 90 second stop-and-go penalty, but she decided to ignore it completely so they took away 3 laps from her finishing total. Rainsford then claimed after the race that if she had made that move on another driver other than one of the Team Saar USA drivers, the consequence would've been less harsh. After the disastrous race, Rainsford moved on and stayed consistent throughout the rest of the season, although the only other penalty she received was that she was docked 25 points after the Round of Quincy for taking out her sister Rachel Rainsford, a penalty she decided not to take action against. Nevertheless, she still went on to win her second TM Master Cup Series Championship.

2011

Rainsford's primary paintscheme in 2011.

Alexis Rainsford had been rumored to be making the switch to V8 Champ Car despite winning the TM Master Cup Series title for the second time. She signed a one-year deal to return to Volpi and began the season very strongly, scoring a win in Carbondale despite not having the fastest car and a collision with Tony Durbin midway through the race. There were signs, though, that the 2011 Volpi was not the strongest car on the grid, as Rainsford had, by her standards, a miserable weekend in Las Vegas and Texas.

She came to the European races brimming with confidence, scoring a 6th place in Brands Hatch and then storming her way to 9th in Sweden despite being forced to start at the rear of the field. Rainsford's drive in Sweden was particularly impressive, as she made many bold passing maneuvers that most of her competitors would have disregarded. She missed the next race in Germany due to participating in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time.

Heading into the Karjala Grand Prix, Rainsford was again one of the favorites to win the race, as she has always been a threat to win it in her previous five attempts. Despite missing the first two practice sessions, Rainsford secured her place on the grid during pole qualifying. However, a controversial incident with rival Tony Durbin meant that Rainsford was dropped 10 places on the grid. Under normal circumstances, a ten place grid drop would have knocked Rainsford out of the top 10, and meant that she lost her guaranteed position in the field, however, a loophole in the rules which stated that the fastest 10 times would start the race meant that Rainsford kept her starting berth, but would start 18th instead of 8th. In the race, Rainsford stormed to victory from 18th, winning by 11 seconds, and completing the career Grand Slam, becoming just the third driver in history to do so (the other two being Leonid Roderick & Benny Dwyer).

She stunned the TM Master Cup Series community by announcing her switch to the V8 Champ Car series before the Round of Daytona in July. Rainsford had a very comfortable lead in the championship at the time. Even if the Champ Car deal did not come to fruition, Rainsford had reservations about taking the start.

"I've always had a bad feeling about Daytona, even though I've gone faster in an open seater car... because at Daytona with the current TM Master Cup Series cars you're basically in a car that doesn't slow down easily on a track where big crashes happen all the time. I don't feel that type of racing can be called racing, it's more like a high speed demolition derby where the winner is the only car left... "

She finished 4th in the final 2011 driver standings, but together with Packer Carroll and Divina Henton, helped the #1 team win the 2011 TMMC Owner's Championship.

V8 Champ Car

Around 2009, rumors circulated that Alexis Rainsford was looking at a career in open wheel racing, as she had originally intended. She tested the Dansa Formula A car, and despite a few off-track excursions, proved to be capable, however she admitted that she had too many business and personal interests in America to make a serious bid at the top European motorsport category.

In early 2010, Rainsford sampled a Charlie Kaylor-prepared Champ Car for the first time at the pre-season Sebring test session. She did not attempt any races, but she proved to be solid for someone who had not driven an open wheel car in an official test session for many years. During the 2010 offseason, Rainsford logged over 250 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Rainsford ran a pair of V8 Champ Car rounds in 2010. She made her debut in Mexico City, making a good start before crashing on lap 3, she would also become part of a 4-car crash on lap 18 in Las Vegas that was not of her doing. Rainsford would not finish any of her attempts in 2010.

In 2011, Rainsford ran the Round of Phoenix for Champ Car but crashed near the half way mark, in the Indianapolis 500 she finished 12th (and scoring her first Champ Car point) and won Rookie of the Year honors for the race. Before the Round of Daytona, Rainsford immediately decided to jump to the V8 Champ Car series full time for the remainder of the season.

She will take over the 10 for Charlie Kaylor Racing, and despite showing flashes of brilliance, has only made it to the finish once since joining the series when she came home 14th at Toronto. Had it not been for a full-course caution late in the race, Rainsford and the team felt that she could have finished as high as 5th. In all five of her other starts she has crashed out, most of the incidents of her own doing. Despite this somewhat embarrassing record, Rainsford has never started lower than 14th since joining the series full-time, and started as high as 8th at Edmonton. Her Edmonton performance saw her hard-charging reputation come through and after the first lap, she was 5th, but on the third lap Rainsford collided with championship contender Ansgar Degenhart, eliminating both on the spot. It was the third consecutive race that Rainsford had been involved in the first full-course caution of the race.

2012

Rainsford was retained by Charlie Kaylor Racing, and will drive car #12 for the team as Ensminger will return to the #10 car.

She started the 2012 campaign off using last year's Avril AV/11, having written off her only AV/12 during practice at Phoenix. She crashed the AV/11 in Phoenix while running 9th, 10 laps past halfway, after she encountered lapped traffic. She crashed the same AV/11 again from 12th at Houston on lap 14 after starting 16th, eliminating herself and crowd favorite Kenny Falcone who was on an alternate strategy.

Falcone was not complimentary of Rainsford or major backer Lynxe following the collision, saying; "Lynxe keeps blowing money on sex icons to tear their stuff up". Rainsford retorted by asking Falcone how many championships he had won in his career in junior formulae, to which Falcone had no answer.

Rainsford received a new AV/12 for Long Beach and qualified an impressive fourth. After a lightning start, Rainsford rocketed up to third by the first lap. She continued her feud with Falcone by making an ambitious pass in the famous Long Beach Hairpin. Falcone swerved to miss Rainsford and wound up touching the wall and dropping out of the race ten laps later.

She appeared to be a potential threat to leader Scott Carlyle early in the race until she lost ground to Carlyle in the pits. After looking to have second place locked up, Rainsford had a gearbox problem with 17 laps to go. She pulled into one of the runoff areas and threw the steering wheel, refusing to talk to reporters for some time.

All three Charlie Kaylor cars suffered problems early in Brazil. Rainsford was involved in a first corner crash, while both Ricardo Rivaldo and Jayne Ensminger retired due to engine failures late in the race. Rivaldo retired from the lead, much to the crowd's disappointment.

Rainsford was the star during the month of May at Indianapolis and her times and pace suggested she could possibly threaten to win the race. Rivaldo qualified on the pole, with Rainsford a strong second and Carlyle filling out third on the grid. During the race, Rainsford was the unquestioned star, taking the lead on lap 24 and building a lead. She looked set to win after leading almost half of the race, however a late-race caution wiped out the lead she had built.

Scott Carlyle, who restarted in second with 4 laps to go, was believed by many to have jumped the restart. The lead changed hands twice in the last three laps, with Carlyle winning the race for the third time. Rainsford settled for second, but was clearly very pleased with herself. She had led 97 of the 200 laps and had looked very comfortable up front.

Rainsford also returned to Master Cup competition at the 2012 Karjala Grand Prix, driving the #27 Lynxe Manticore and winning the pole, breaking the track record easily. Rainsford would go on to lead the most laps, but mechanical issues led to her finishing in 12th place.

She took another pair of podium results in Portland and South Korea, but she is only 12th in the championship -- behind both of her teammates. Ricardo Rivaldo sits third in the championship, and Jayne Ensminger in 8th.

For the New York Grand Prix, Rainsford had qualified third but dropped to the back after cutting a tire after front row starters David Falcone and Scott Carlyle eliminated each other on the first lap. Rolling the dice on fuel strategy and capitalizing on two mid-race safety cars, she gradually worked her way through the field. She controversially made contact with race leader Kenny Falcone as she was passing him, but most observers noted that Falcone had attempted to cut her off while she was already alongside. Falcone's race ended against the wall, with Rainsford cruising to her first victory. She celebrated by (literally) jumping for joy on the podium.

An interesting story surrounding the victory was that Rainsford's fiancee, Chris Davenport, had made a daring wager beforehand. If she won a Champ Car race before the season was over, he would bleach his hair platinum blonde, and if she won at New York, he would let her paint his nails. Davenport's motivation worked, and Davenport was more than happy to pay off his wager, sparking some controversy and amused reactions.

Helmet Design

Rainsford's new helmet design without any logos on it.

Rainsford's helmet was a dark, metallic gray with a rainbow stripe running across the center. She chose the design early in her career to reflect a then-fascination with progressive/psychadelic rock band Pink Floyd. The Pink Floyd connection was more obvious before 2006, when there was a white triangle (referencing the Dark Side of the Moon cover) on the front. Rainsford removed the triangle three races into the 2006 because she felt it was 'tacky'.

Since joining Champ Car, Rainsford's helmet design has included a pink breast cancer ribbon placed prominently on it. Starting with her one-off appearance at the 2012 Karjala Grand Prix, Rainsford will use a new helmet which is primarily red, black, and gold with some white highlights.

Personal

Rainsford has been romantically involved with Chris Davenport since 2009, and officially announced her engagement to him after the Champ Car race in Toronto. She is fluent in both English and French.

Trivia

  • Alexis Rainsford's original model for the 3D scenes that act as promos to the TM Master Cup Series is (almost) identical to the one Cynon used for Erin Marchesi in his old Name 73 project. Interestingly enough, Marchesi was not described as being very attractive, whereas Rainsford's physical appearance has seldom been described.
  • One of her old pit boards was a pink silhouette of a cat.
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