An overdue first NTT Indycar Series victory of the year for Josef Newgarden in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course capped a tremendously successful Fourth of July weekend for alumni of the Team USA Scholarship, which has been providing opportunities for talented young American drivers for the past 31 years. Other important race wins were collected by fellow Team USA Scholarship winners Kyle Kirkwood (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires), Dakota Dickerson (IMSA Prototype Challenge) and Aaron Telitz (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship).
“It’s always a little bit special when one of our former scholarship winners scores a big win, and I must confess there’s an extra feeling of pride when they step up onto the top step of the podium on the Fourth of July weekend,” said Team USA Scholarship Founder and President Jeremy Shaw.
Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Newgarden, 30, who claimed a Team USA Scholarship in 2008 and became the first American to win the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, has been knocking on the door of Victory Lane this season for Team Penske. Finally, on Sunday, after claiming pole position and leading the most laps during each of the two most recent races at The Raceway on Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Mich., and at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Newgarden completed the job with a dominating performance. He now lies fourth in series points.
Kirkwood, 22, from Jupiter, Fla., displayed equally strong form at Mid-Ohio, sweeping both Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races for Andretti Autosport. The 2016 Team USA Scholarship winner now leads the Indy Lights championship, for which the winner will receive a scholarship prize valued at $1.3 million to guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 2022, including the Indianapolis 500.
Kirkwood, who won the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and added the following year’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title, now has won a record 27 times on the Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, eclipsing the mark previously set by another former Team USA Scholarship winner, Spencer Pigot. Kirkwood is seeking to become the first driver to scoop all three championships.
Also at Mid-Ohio, 2020 Team USA Scholarship winner Simon Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., finished on the podium in all three USF2000 races, which boasted an extraordinarily competitive 28-car field. Despite being forced to skip two race weekends, Sikes has worked his way to 11th in the points table with five races remaining this season.
A couple of days earlier at Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York, 2014 Team USA alum Telitz combined with Englishman Jack Hawksworth to score a GTD class victory (below, right) in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 for the Vasser Sullivan Lexus team (co-owned by the first-ever Team USA Scholarship winner, Jimmy Vasser).
In the same race, 2012 Team USA Scholarship winner Tristan Nunez finished a close second in the LMP2 division. He also posted the class’ fastest race lap.
Dickerson, who claimed a Team USA Scholarship in 2015, displayed imperious form in MLT Motorsports’ LMP3 Ligier JS P320, taking over from co-driver Josh Sarchet and going on to win the IMSA Prototype Challenge race by more than 18 seconds for the team’s first win of the season. Dickerson (below), 24, from San Diego, Calif., and Sarchet now trail Germany’s Moritz Kranz by just 10 points with two races remaining.
The IMSA event at Watkins Glen also saw 2011 Team USA alum Trent Hindman lead the Michelin Pilot Challenge race and set the fastest race lap in his VOLT Racing with Archangel Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Other notable results include 2001 winner AJ Allmendinger taking two stage wins and finishing fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America (Allmendinger holds second place in the point standings); 2013 scholarship recipient Jacob Eidson winning a Lamborghini Super Trofeo race at Watkins Glen the week before; and 2016 alum Neil Verhagen being part of an historic endurance victory on the Nurburgring ‘Nordschleife’ with the newly reformed BMW Junior Team.