- 08 August 2015
Elkhart Lake, Wis. – A dozen young American drivers representing a variety of junior categories have been chosen as candidates for this year’s prestigious Team USA Scholarships. The selection process will continue during this weekend’s IMSA Continental Tire Road Racing Showcase event at Road America where each of the contenders will have an opportunity to meet and be interviewed by influential personalities from the auto racing industry.
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 will be making the trip to Road America this weekend:
• 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
Colton Herta, currently racing in the MSA Formula in England, and Californian F1600 racer Scott Huffaker also were considered for inclusion but do not meet the minimum age of 16 required to contest the Formula Ford events. In addition, Austin Cindric, 16, from Mooresville, N.C., was selected after some standout performances in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the Pirelli World Challenge, the ARCA Racing Series and Red Bull Global Rallycross, but has graciously withdrawn himself from the reckoning due to prior commitments.
“From the beginning, it has always been a goal of mine to represent the Team USA Scholarship program during my racing career,” said Cindric. “It is really an honor to be selected as a candidate this year as this program has made such an impact on so many young American drivers over the years. Unfortunately, my current commitments conflict with many of this year's activities so I feel it's best to withdraw my name before the finalists are chosen as I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of another nominee receiving this great opportunity. Hopefully, there will be a way to represent Team USA in another meaningful way in the future.”
Cindric instead will facilitate a tour for this year’s candidates of his Multimatic team, which has won the two most recent rounds of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Action Express Racing, Michael Shank Racing, the SpeedSource Mazda team and Magnus Racing will provide valuable additional insights for the contenders, while IMSA President Scott Atherton also will address the group during the weekend.
The panel of judges for the interviews will include 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.”