Six candidates compete for opportunity to compete in international formula car racing.
Two Mazda scholarship racers are among six young motorsports standouts to be invited to participate in the Team USA Scholarship Shootout at Auto Club Speedway in California. Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich points leader Kenton Koch and USF2000 Rookie of the Year Aaron Telitz will join Skip Barber Summer Series competitors Ben Auriemma and Michai Stephens and F1600 competitors Tristan DeGrand and Garth Rickards in the shootout that will award drivers the opportunity to compete in an international series over the winter.
“To be one of the finalists of the Team USA Scholarship is an honor,” says Koch, of Glendora, Calif., who has won five MX-5 Cup races this season. “Not a lot of people get an opportunity like this. I’m going into this Shootout with no expectations and am just going to focus on what I need to do in order to do my best. Most importantly, I’m going to have fun competing against some of America’s most talented young drivers. I can’t thank Jeremy [Shaw] enough for giving me the opportunity.”
Run by veteran motorsports journalist Jeremy Shaw, the Team USA Scholarship is in its 25th year and has awarded opportunities to such notable racers as Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden. Recent winners have had strong Mazda ties. Spencer Pigot, the recently crowned Pro Mazda Champion, won in 2010-’11. Last year’s Pro Mazda titlist, Matthew Brabham, won in 2012, as did Tristan Nunez, who races one of the Mazda SKYACTIV Diesel Prototypes in the TUDOR Championship. Last year’s scholarship recipients were Mazda Club Racer Shootout winner and current MX-5 Cup competitor Joey Bickers, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda standout Jake Eidson and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires racer Neil Alberico.
Alberico will serve as one of the judges, alongside two-time Rolex Sports Car champion Alex Gurney; David Cook, the business development manager for Mazda North American Operations; veteran IndyCar /Indy Lights team owner Jack McCormack; Chris Pantani of Cooper Tires; Jim Leo of Pitfit Training; RACER magazine founder Paul Pfanner; and race engineer Geoff Fickling.
“It is a huge honor to be chosen as a candidate for the Team USA Scholarship,” says Telitz, who scored six podiums in USF2000 in 2014. “Only a handful of drivers get nominated, so I will be up against the top up-and-coming American talent at the shootout. I’m always up for a challenge and I can’t wait to get on track and show what I’ve got!”
Past scholarship winners have been treated to series in New Zealand and prestigious events in England such as the Walter Hayes Trophy.