Racers from GPfour, Formula Car Challenge and USF2000 are chosen in the first round of the selection process for the TeamUSA Scholarship
Ten young drivers, ranging in age from 16 to 23, have been selected as candidates for this year’s Team USA Scholarship, and several of them have Mazda ties. Ultimately, two winners will follow in the footsteps of a long line of accomplished professional drivers – headed by Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta, who claimed the first two scholarships in 1990 and 1991, respectively – by gaining an opportunity to take part in some international auto racing events later this year.
The winners also will earn an invitation to the Mazda Road to Indy $200,000 USF2000 Scholarship Shootout and a chance to emulate Oliver Askew, who secured both a Team USA Scholarship and the MRTI Scholarship in 2016. Askew now leads the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and is chasing another Mazda Scholarship, which would enable him to graduate to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018. A total of 11 Team USA Scholarship winners were among this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona field.
The Team USA Scholarship is one of the most successful and longest established driver development programs in the world. Participants include almost a quarter of the drivers in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series, plus IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship stand-outs such as Mazda factory driver and MRTI driver coach Joel Miller.
The first stage of the selection process comprises a series of interviews to be conducted before a panel of judges during the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
The selection panel will include MRTI alumnus Spencer Pigot, Miller and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race winner (and 2014 Team USA alum) Aaron Telitz; Indy Lights team owner Brian Belardi; factory Porsche driver and current Pirelli World Challenge series leader Patrick Long; Cooper Tires Technical Consultant and five-time Indy 500 starter Johnny Unser; Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull; Mazda Motorsports’ Operations Manager Kyle Kimball; Mazda Road to Indy promoter Dan Andersen; American Honda Motorsports Manager T.E. McHale; Assistant Manager, Marketing, Honda Performance Development George Harmon; PitFit Training president Jim Leo; Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler; and Juncos Racing Indy Lights Race Engineer Peter Dempsey.
Four drivers chosen for the first round are currently racing Mazda-powered cars. Elliot Finlayson, a 21-year old from Yorkville, Ill., competes in the GPfour championship, which uses the Mazda-powered Formula Enterprise cars, and he is leading the Northern Conference Majors points in FE. Sabré Cook, 23, from Grand Junction, Colo., also competes in the GPfour championship and is the only woman chosen as a candidate for this year’s scholarship. Jacob Loomis, 17, of Corinth, Texas, has competed in on USF2000 Championship race this year, after previously racing Formula Mazda in SCCA Club Racing. Finally, 18-year old Carter Williams of Clovis, Calif., is in his second year of competing in the Formula Car Challenge.