Stephens, 23, from Evanston, Ill., gained his introduction to the sport as a 4-year-old when he spied an Indy car on display during a family visit to the Chicago Auto Show. Hailing from a background with no ties to the racing industry, nor the means to pursue his new-found passion, Stephens finally found an opportunity 16 years later, in 2012, when he discovered information about the Skip Barber Racing School’s INDYCAR Academy – aimed specifically at drivers without any previous background in car racing or even karting.
Stephens’ progress since then has been impressive. After winning an academy scholarship, he took part in his very first race – in the Skip Barber Summer Series – in May 2014. His first win came in just his second race weekend, leading to an invitation to a shootout for the Team USA Scholarship. Stephens again made the most of his opportunity and went on to finish an astonishing third at the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford race at Silverstone in England – from a field of almost 120 drivers from around the world.
He has spent this year building his network of connections and continuing to work toward his dream. Stephens raced only sporadically in 2015 but secured another Team USA Scholarship which he again used to excellent effect, claiming podium finishes both at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.
“We are excited about having Michai Stephens drive our second car in USF2000, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy, for 2016," said Fred Edwards, CEO of Metalloid Corporation. “Michai is the type of individual we want to help grow within the racing community. Based on his short racing career so far, he has clearly been blessed with natural talent and a burning desire to become a champion. We feel Michai will be a great ambassador in and out of the car for RJB Motorsports and Metalloid Corporation."
“An incredible and priceless opportunity has magically fallen into place," said Stephens. “Thanks to Metalloid and RJB Motorsports, we will join forces and encourage one another to the best results possible. To have been selected for a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity like this by Fred and RJB only fuels the fire that burns bright inside. I am beyond grateful to have this fairytale come to life and will do my very best to repay the faith that has been shown in me. I can hardly wait to get started."
The team is making plans for McMahan and Stephens to conduct an extensive test program prior to the season-opening event in St. Petersburg, Fla., in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, on March 12-13.
About RJB Motorsports:
Former pro hydro boat racer Ryan Barth established RJB Motorsports in 2011 when he made the switch toward four-wheel racing in the SCCA’s Formula 600 category. He quickly formed a partnership with fellow F600 racers and brothers Fred and Tom Edwards, whose company, Metalloid Corporation, produces a range of environmentally friendly fluids to the metalworking industry. The association led to the formation of the F600 Challenge Series, a cost-effective, entry-level championship featuring motorcycle engines and six-speed sequential transmissions, and more recently to a long-term goal of assisting talented young drivers via the proven Mazda Road to Indy.