Several Mazda drivers are named as candidates for the 25th Anniversary team that will compete in prestigious events in the UK.
A dozen young American drivers representing a variety of junior categories have been chosen as candidates for this year’s prestigious Team USA Scholarships and among them are several drivers with Mazda ties, currently competing in Mazda-powered cars or championships.
Six finalists will progress to a shootout in early September at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., hosted by Allen Berg Racing Schools and Cooper Tire.
Ultimately, two winners will be invited to represent both the scholarship supporters and their country at the traditional end-of-season Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone in England. Last year’s Walter Hayes event (named after the founder of Formula Ford, which, in its 48th year, remains as the most productive feeder category of all) attracted almost 120 drivers from around the world.
The Team USA Scholarship, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015, is made possible by contributions from a broad spectrum of companies and individuals.
Jimmy Vasser, who went on to win an IndyCar championship in 1996 and, in 2013, claim the Indianapolis 500 as a team co-owner, was the first scholarship winner in 1990. Subsequent recipients have included Bryan Herta, coincidentally also a winning car owner at Indianapolis, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Andy Lally, Joey Hand, A.J. Allmendinger, Bryan Sellers, Charlie Kimball, J.R. Hildebrand, Dane Cameron, Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot.
The following drivers wore chosen in the initial selection and traveled to Road America this past weekend for the IMSA Continental Tire Road Racing Showcase event where they had the opportunity to meet and be interviewed by influential personalities from the auto racing industry.
• Ben Auriemma, 17, Manhasset, N.Y., F1600 Championship Series
• Sam Chastain, 22, Noblesville, Ind., F2000 Championship Series
• Dakota Dickerson, 18, San Diego, Calif., Skip Barber Racing Series
• Austin Mack, 17, Warren, R.I., F1600 Championship Series
• Tommy McCarthy, 16, Fremont, Calif., SCCA Spec Miata/USAC midgets
• Austin McCusker, 17, Glen Head, NY, F2000 Championship Series
• Tazio Ottis, 19, Alameda, Calif., SCCA Formula Mazda
• Chase Owen, 23, Houston, Texas, Skip Barber Racing Series
• Timo Reger, 18, Houston, Texas, Skip Barber Racing Series
• Michai Stephens, 23, Evanston, Ill., F1600 Championship Series
• Austin Versteeg, 16, Sandy, Utah, IMSA Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda
Dickerson, McCarthy, Ottis, Owen, Reger and Versteeg all currently compete in Mazda-powered racers.
The panel of judges for the interviews included Derrick Walker, president of operations and competition for INDYCAR and principal of Walker Racing/Team Falken Tire, Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull, Mazda Motorsports Specialist Kyle Kimball, accomplished racer and NBC Sports Network pundit Townsend Bell and his Scuderia Corsa teammate Bill Sweedler, television personality and pit lane reporter Jamie Howe, and former scholarship winners Lally, Sellers, Cameron and factory Mazda driver Joel Miller.
“I am very grateful for all of the time and effort that has been expended by many people to help provide what should be an illuminating weekend for our scholarship contenders,” said Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw. “They will learn a great deal about what to expect as they progress along the racing ladder, and we will have an opportunity to learn a little more about them as individuals.”