|Gil de Ferran|
An illustrious group of auto racing professionals, led by Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, will join forces later this week to select a pair of talented young American race car drivers who will be invited to travel to England next month to compete in both the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone.
The two winners will be chosen from six finalists who will take part in a shootout hosted by Cooper Tire and the Lucas Oil School of Racing at Palm Beach Int’l Raceway in Jupiter, Fla. They will follow in the footsteps of a long list of accomplished racers such as Jimmy Vasser, who in 1990 claimed the first Team USA Scholarship, Bryan Herta, Jerry Nadeau, Memo Gidley, Andy Lally, Dane Cameron, Josef Newgarden, Trent Hindman and Spencer Pigot.
Other judges will include Chris Pantani, director of marketing, event marketing and motorsports at Cooper Tire & Rubber Company; COO of Lucas Oil School of Racing Todd Snyder; former scholarship winner Tristan Nunez, now part of the factory-supported Mazda Motorsports team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship; four-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Lawson Aschenbach; Peter Baron, whose Starworks Motorsport team has earned class wins in both the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship; Verizon IndyCar Series driver R.C. Enerson; accomplished driver coaches Jonatan Jorge and Gerardo Bonilla; PitFit Training’s Jim Leo; Nicholas Cape, who, along with brother Dominic, has won an astonishing 10 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda titles since 2000, most recently under the Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor banner; and Team USA Scholarship founder and auto racing writer/broadcaster Jeremy Shaw.
"It is funny how life comes around," said de Ferran, a two-time IndyCar champion and winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500, who began his career under the tutelage of three-time Formula One World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart. "It seems like yesterday it was me who was being scrutinized for a chance to join a prestigious racing program. I want to thank Jeremy for the honor of selecting me to help choose a worthy candidate for ‘Team USA.’ It is a responsibility which I will take as seriously as anything else I have done in my career."
"I am thrilled to lend my support to the Team USA Scholarship program," added Starworks Motorsport Team Principal Baron. "I admire all the efforts the program has done and it is quite amazing to see the results from the list of winners since its inception! Over the decades with my involvements with motorsports I have been privileged to work with some of the world’s best drivers, and assisted with younger drivers who have gone on to leading factory programs. I look forward to passing on any knowledge I have to assist in promoting the future American stars of racing."
The six finalists are Oliver Askew, 19, from Jupiter, Fla., a vastly accomplished karter who has also impressed in Formula Masters China and Skip Barber Racing School events; F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda title contenders Konrad Czaczyk, 19, and Kyle Kirkwood, 17, both of whom, coincidentally, also hail from Jupiter, Fla.; Skip Barber Racing Summer Series front-runner Andre Castro, 17, from New York, N.Y.; fellow New Yorker Robert Megennis, 16, who earned Rookie of the Year honors and was the highest finishing American in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda; and Tim de Silva, 20, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., who recently clinched the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Primus Racing Parts.
"To be nominated for the Team USA Scholarship is a huge honor for any young driver," said Nicholas Cape. "This group of drivers Jeremy has assembled is super-deep in talent; I am looking forward to seeing these lads perform and finding out who has what it takes to represent the USA."