As I’m sitting in a hotel at Castle Combe, England, it’s amazing to think about all that’s happened recently. Just a couple of months after my first official race in cars, I received the call from Jeremy Shaw that I would be one of three drivers representing our red, white and blue colors in the UK for the Team USA Scholarship.
Like the majority of racing drivers, my love of racing started at a very young age. For me it was at 5 years old when my father got a go-kart, oddly at the suggestion of a neighbor, as it wasn’t on our radar in any way. It became a way for our family to bond and spend time together, and this stayed true all the way to 2021. But in my mind the objective was always to drive cars, and I was having a tough time finding the way through.
Over the past few years my driving opportunities have been sparse aside from a number of schools and competitions where I received a lot of encouragement to continue. The dream of making a career out of racing kept me pushing as hard as I could. I had the opportunity for some simulator coaching through one of the competitions, which helped me hone my skills when I couldn’t be in a car, and admittedly I got pretty good at it!
Beginning in 2021, I also had the good fortune to hook up with MPG Motorsports (an Indianapolis-based karting team) as a data analyst and driver coach. Through MPG I have been able to work with many talented young drivers, and learn a lot from them. It hasn’t just been learning from analyzing their driving because they’ve taught me a lot about how to communicate more effectively with the people around me. It’s also given me the opportunity to work with some legends of the sport, Josef Newgarden and Will Power (pictured above, with Budzinski), on their go-karting adventures. Wow, was it an eye-opener seeing the work ethic that those two brought to the table.
At the beginning of this year, my goal was to make the move from karting to cars, but I had no idea what series, team or car to run. I was “late” showing up at 19, but it kick-started what would eventually lead me here to the UK. We made the decision to take advantage of an open seat with Rice Race Prep, which runs a team with the Honda-powered Formula F cars, and I would be racing at the 67th SCCA June Sprints at Road America. Once it was set, I sent an email to Jeremy Shaw introducing myself and showing my intentions with the Scholarship, but we didn’t yet speak in person.
I knew I would have to perform well if I wanted any shot at being considered. To keep from going too much into detail, things went well walking away with a win and a second-place finish, and it was a real thrill! Then I had something to talk about with Mr. Shaw. Rice Race Prep still had the car available for their next event, a Formula Race Promotions F1600 race weekend at Autobahn in Illinois, and we signed on. It was there I had the opportunity to race on the same team with Thomas Schrage, and took another win and two second-place finishes to round out the weekend. I was hooked on racing the Formula F cars, and Team USA then gave me the opportunity to participate with the other 12 drivers selected for the chance to go to the UK.
It seems pretty obvious what a great opportunity this is for a young driver. I love the driving, no question, but the rest of what it takes to succeed isn’t as easy. Team USA provides so many opportunities to meet and learn from various people throughout motorsports disciplines, and that’s how I’ve spent the last month — it’s incredible the number of people that I have looked up to that I’ve had a chance to meet or speak with.
Onto the right now… Thomas, William Ferguson and I are currently at Castle Combe after a big push to get seats made and the cars finished off for our first outing at a local airfield. Even after three days in the UK, it’s still hard to comprehend the gravity of what’s going to happen over the next month and a half with all the testing, the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy events, but I am ready.
I can’t thank Jeremy Shaw and Team USA enough, and Andy Low, the whole Ammonite crew, AERO Sustainable Paint, Doug Mockett, Cooper Tires, SAFEisFAST.com, and the enormous group behind the program that made this happen. I hope that maybe you’ll be able to tune in to watch, but if not rest assured I will continue to keep everyone updated with the happenings and all that I might find interesting.