Greetings from the UK! I’m in the early stages of my 14-day quarantine which is required for most travelers from the United States because of COVID-19. But the wait to get out and experience my first trip out of the U.S. will be well worth it! The Team USA Scholarship program has been a very prominent factor in many drivers’ racing careers. A very high percentage have gone on to become professional drivers in IndyCar, IMSA or NASCAR and in many cases, champions. It is an honor to add my name to this impressive list.
My name is Jackson Lee. I am 18 years old, from Avon, Indiana, just west of Indianapolis, and a senior at Avon High School (with lots of remote learning planned for the next month). I grew up playing all sports and played baseball on the high school team until my sophomore year and still play on recreational baseball and basketball teams in Avon. I also started racing shortly before I turned 8. Many think my dad’s job gave me the idea to start racing (Kevin Lee is a sports broadcaster and is one of the announcers for IndyCar and IMSA on NBC Sports), but a lot of that passion is fueled by a racing background on my mom’s side of the family. Going to my cousin’s sprint car races as a child is where I found my passion in the sport. It grew as I learned more about IndyCar and the drivers from my dad.
I raced quarter midgets on very small ovals (under seven-second laps!) for a little over four years and was winning often by the end. But my dream was to become an IndyCar driver and I knew I would need to learn road racing. So we transitioned to karts when I was 11, racing both for a year. There I learned the basics of road racing and how to battle against the best competition in the country. I started testing in cars at the end of 2016 in a three-day Skip Barber Racing School and then attended a few advanced lapping sessions with the Lucas Oil School of Racing over the next two years.
I entered the Lucas Oil School of Racing Karts to Cars Scholarship Shootout at Sebring in December of 2018. It included 30 of the top go-kart drivers around the country in a three-day event where on-track speed, potential and media skills would be judged. I was able to finish fourth which earned me three races in the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series. This was really the first time I realized that, with help, I could have a realistic chance to make it as a racing driver.
In 2019, I ran the full season in the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series. I went back and forth for the championship lead all season with two wins and many podiums. I ended up finishing fourth, about 20 points off the top spot. More importantly, I learned an immeasurable amount of skills that I would be able to take to the next level.
Last year I was also invited as a Team USA nominee. I got to participate in a selection event at Mid-Ohio during the IndyCar weekend. It included the chance to meet with many important people who can help my career and provide advice and I also was able to watch some of the IndyCar practice sessions from the pit stands and get an insider’s view of how the pros approach a session. Just being a part of the selection process was an amazing opportunity to develop contacts and I also received some nice publicity. Most importantly, I gained a better understanding of the requirements and skills outside of the car required to make it as a professional.
This year, I have been racing alongside teammate and fellow Team USA Scholarship winner Simon Sikes for RiceRace. I finished second in FF in the June Sprints at Road America and we have been battling and working together in the FRP F1600 Championship Series. The racing has been very close and competitive and I have been able to compete for wins every weekend and develop my skills immensely. I have two wins (Mid-Ohio and VIR) with podiums in my last seven races and currently sit second in points in the No. 52 Tnemec entry with two weekends remaining. I won’t be able to finish the season because of the timing of events with Team USA, so hopefully my teammate Simon can wrap up the championship (and continue his early success in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship)!
The Team USA Scholarship is huge for several reasons. It’s a big chance to learn with large fields of talented and often more experienced drivers and possibly a slightly different style of racing. I also get to race at legendary tracks in the UK – and try to learn them very quickly against drivers that have raced there many times. And Team USA can help me with new relationships and exposure that could lead to partnerships to reach USF2000 and the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires next season. I have been working towards this goal since I was in karts and I’ve got a lot of people to thank for helping to get me there. So, buckle up – it’s a long list!
Thanks to Jeremy Shaw with Team USA and all of their supporters. Greg Rice with RiceRace and all of our great crew and my teammate, Simon Sikes, who have helped me run up front all season and win in F1600. And to everyone that helped keep me on the track: Mike Land with Tnemec and Indiana Coating Specialists has become our primary partner; Don and Jennifer Caldwell with Caldwell Realty and Caldwell Subways have been with me for many years; Art Wilmes with Rising Star Racing has provided significant help along with Don Weidig of Lake Cable Consulting. Our other partners are Performance Tire Service Company, Bell Helmets, BSA LifeStructures, Moeller Printing, Cabin Coffee Company of Avon, Hinchman Racing Uniforms, George Gans, PitFit Training, Indy Simulation, FasTimes Indoor Karting and our first sponsor – The Blind Man plus all of those who have donated anonymously or bought gift cards through our Flip Give account on the website, http://www.JacksonLeeRacing.com. I look forward to working with the Team USA partners which include Doug Mockett & Company, AERO Paints, SAFEisFAST.com, Cooper Tire, Tom Gloy, The Stellrecht Company, Sparco and Styled Aesthetic.
I also want to thank some who helped me develop as a driver including everyone at Mini Indy, New Castle Motorsports Park and Comet Kart Sales, and my driver coaches: Sam Imel, Scott Manifold, Ron Funkhouser, Darren Manning, Kelly Jones with RaceCraft1, all of the coaches at the Lucas Oil School of Racing, Anders Krohn, Wyatt Foster, Mike Ogren, and Chris Livengood. And, I think I’m leaving some others off that have helped along the way. Thank you!
Thanks again for the support and I look forward to sharing my adventures.