Aaron Jeansonne is the first Team USA Scholarship winner to hail from the state of Louisiana. His background in the sport has been brief but he has already made quite an impression. This is his story:
“Please tell me you are not joking” was my first response when a call to Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw one afternoon a couple of weeks ago resulted in him asking me if I would “fancy a trip to England.” I can honestly say now that I have experienced true joy more than a few times, but perhaps never quite like this. I haven’t yet wrapped my head around everything at this point so I am just focusing on enjoying it all right now.
I’d say things have changed in a very big way since last October when I had signed up for a Skip Barber Three-Day School, still looking up in awe at the racing world. I remember watching Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood go on their Team USA Scholarship journey, reading their blogs and wishing I could someday have the same chance. I had a lot of self belief but deep down realized the chances were highly unlikely, but that never meant give up.
Racing was never much part of the culture where I was raised – in Sulphur, La. – nor was I from a racing family in the first place. I was, however, given a racing game called NASCAR Thunder 2004 for my old PlayStation 2 when I was 6 years old. So instead of the common story “my parents bought me a go kart when I was 6,” my love of racing started with that game. Ever since then being a racecar driver has been my top goal in life.
It wasn’t until I was nearly 17 years old when I began my brief but fun experience with dirt oval karting. After picking and clawing for advice and eventually booking that Skip Barber School a year later, I was advised to check out the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series. I soon realized the opportunity I was seeking was in this series and that I needed to do everything possible to be a part of it.
I had recently turned 18 years old and landed a great job working as an aircraft mechanic. I then promised my dad that if he financed for me to run the Lucas Oil season finale at NOLA Motorsports Park, I would pay him off for it. I had already risked a lot in my life for racing (such as changing majors for school and eventually dropping out of college to work full time) so I truly believed this was worth it and a great shot at being noticed by someone important. He agreed, although I know he didn’t feel I had made the right decision at the time.
To this day it’s still hard to believe how perfectly the stars have aligned for me from that point. I met lots of important people right away and knew I would get the exposure and connections I was looking for. I then met a coach by the name of Jonatan Jorge. At the time, I had no idea how important he would eventually be to my career. It took all of two practice sessions to strike an interest in him. He proceeded to ask me if I had heard of the Team USA Scholarship and recommended that I try and shoot for it the following year. I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me, this can’t be happening.” He then helped and taught me lots throughout that weekend and I was able to pick up my first win in my second-ever race (pictured, below).
After that race weekend I was full of emotion, almost as if the weight of the world I had felt most of my life was gone. I finally felt as if my dreams had a chance of coming true. Since then I have had some generous people step up to help me fund my 2017 season and I had a huge goal right away – to win this scholarship. With only one race weekend to go this year I am second in the points standings and although I am not in position to come away with the championship, I can say that I have learned a ton from what I believe is the best driving school in the world – and I am the first from Lucas Oil School of Racing to win the Team USA Scholarship.
With this scholarship, I have a ticket to compete in this year’s Mazda Road to Indy $200k USF2000 Scholarship Shootout. Winning this will definitely be tough for any of us who were invited but I plan to give it my all as always. I honestly can’t genuinely believe I have been given this opportunity but I plan to just enjoy it and do my best in the U.K.
I cannot thank Jeremy Shaw enough for making me a part of his program and all he does for me outside of having this chance to drive. He truly cares about racing and has put me in contact with more people than I could have imagined (below: Jeansonne meets with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Mike Hull at Mid-Ohio). I thank him as well as everyone else that believes in me. I will never forget this and no matter where my racing career may take me, I will support the Team USA Scholarship forever.
For now, I am focusing on the task at hand: the prestigious Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy. I feel well prepared after spending the last few days on simulation training with Kelly Jones at Racecraft1 in Indianapolis.
My teammate Jonathan Kotyk and I have just arrived in England and we are already making ourselves at home with Cliff and Michelle Dempsey. We will have the chance to get lots of testing done with Cliff Dempsey Racing before the Festival. This is a great team that always seems to run up front, so I would say we stand a great chance of putting the red, white, and blue Formula Ford cars in good positions! I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date with our adventure here.
Thanks for reading,