PROgression: Ten Candidates Identified for 2017 Team USA Scholarship Selection Process
Ten young drivers, ranging in age from 16 to 23, have been selected as candidates for this year’s Team USA Scholarship. 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 $200k 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.
The Team USA Scholarship is one of the most successful and longest established driver development programs in the world. Almost a quarter of the drivers in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series (five out of 21 full-season campaigners: Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot), plus IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship stand-outs Dane Cameron, Joel Miller, Joey Hand, Andy Lally and Bryan Sellers, along with IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Championship leader Trent Hindman, are all Team USA alumni.
The first stage of the selection process will comprise a series of interviews to be conducted before a panel of judges during this week’s Honda Indy 200 Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires/Pirelli World Challenge road racing event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
The selection panel will include 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.
This year’s Team USA Scholarship candidates are (with age, DOB, hometown and current racing affiliation):
– Sabré Cook, 23, Grand Junction, Colo., GPfour Championship Road Racing
– Konrad Czaczyk, 20, Jupiter, Fla., F1600 Formula Tour Championship (Canada)
– Elliot Finlayson, 21, Yorkville, Ill., GPfour Championship Road Racing
– Aaron Jeansonne, 18, Sulphur, La., Lucas Oil School of Racing
– Kyle Kirkwood, 18, Jupiter, Fla., F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda
– Jonathan Kotyk, 23, Atlantic Beach, Fla., F1600 Championship Series
– Jacob Loomis, 17, Corinth, Texas, F4 US Championship/Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda
– David Osborne, 21, Cincinnati, Ohio, F1600 Championship Series
– Simon Sikes, 16, Martinez, Ga., Skip Barber Racing Series
– Carter Williams, 18, Clovis, Calif., Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear