The process of choosing two young American drivers to represent their country at a pair of premier Formula Ford events in the UK — the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone — is under way. Ten drivers representing a broad cross-section of race series not only in the U.S. but overseas have been selected as candidates for Team USA Scholarships. All have been invited to attend this week’s Honda Indy 200 Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, where their attributes and communication skills will be assessed by a collection of seasoned auto racing professionals.
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 went on to win the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and has now progressed onto the next level of the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel driver development ladder by competing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
This will mark the 29th consecutive year in which the Team USA Scholarship has been providing young American drivers with opportunities to meet influential figures in the sport and contest some international events. Jimmy Vasser, who went on to win the 1996 CART IndyCar World Series and later become an Indianapolis 500 winning team owner, was the first recipient in 1990. Others to have followed in his footsteps include Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Indy 500 Rookies of the Year Phil Giebler and JR Hildebrand, current Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and rivals Charlie Kimball, Spencer Pigot and Conor Daly, plus sports car standouts Dane Cameron, Joel Miller, Joey Hand, Andy Lally, Bryan Sellers and Trent Hindman.
This year’s Team USA Scholarship candidates are (with age, hometown and current racing affiliation):
- Dario Cangialosi, 18, Chester, N.J., F1600 Championship Series
- Jake Craig, 20, Mission Viejo, Calif., F1600 Formula Tour Championship (Canada)
- Courtney Crone, 17, Corona, Calif., Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear
- Braden Eves, 19, New Albany, Ohio, F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda
- Joey Essma, 21, Charlotte, N.C., F1600 Championship Series
- Nicky Hays, 16, Huntington Beach, Calif., SCCA Formula F
- Hunter McElrea, 18, Gold Coast, Qld., Australia, Australian Formula Ford Championship
- Colin Mullan, 16, Danville, Calif., IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge
- Tyler O’Connor, 21, New Hartford, Conn., F1600 Championship Series
- Simon Sikes, 17, Martinez, Ga., F2000 Championship Series
The selection panel will include Pigot, Miller, Askew and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race winner (and 2014 Team USA alum) Aaron Telitz; Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull; Harding Racing VP Vince Kremer and Executive Consultant – and two-time Indy 500 winner – Al Unser Jr., Indy Lights team owner Brian Belardi; Cooper Tires Technical Consultant and five-time Indy 500 starter Johnny Unser; Mazda Motorsports’ Operations Manager Kyle Kimball; Mazda Road to Indy promoter Dan Andersen; American Honda Motorsports Manager T.E. McHale; Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler; PitFit Training President Jim Leo; and RaceCraft1 Principal Kelly Jones.
The judges will be tasked initially with selecting six finalists who will be invited to attend a shootout in conjunction with the Lucas Oil School of Racing at a date and venue yet to be determined.
“It’s hard to comprehend that we have been running this program for so long but I am extremely proud of our alumni’s accomplishments and grateful to all of our partners for making it possible,” says Team USA Scholarship Founder and President Jeremy Shaw. “I believe we have assembled a strong group of candidates and look forward to seeing how they progress.”