The Team USA Scholarship has provided many highlights over the past 23 years, but last weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was especially memorable for a variety of reasons.
It began with an illustrious panel of experts meeting and interviewing this year’s crop of Team USA candidates and ended with a flourish when 2003 scholarship winner Charlie Kimball scored a magnificent first-ever IZOD IndyCar Series victory aboard Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Dallara-Honda DW12.
In addition, 2012 Team USA Scholarship winner Matthew Brabham swept the pair of Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races in the MAZDASPEED car fielded by Andretti Autosport and 2011 alumnus Neil Alberico won two of the three Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races in Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 2 Racelite Protection/Bondurant School of High Performance Driving/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&M Trophies Van Diemen-Mazda.
|7 of the 8 Candidates|
Eight talented young American drivers have been identified as candidates for this year’s Team USA Scholarships: Joey Bickers, 21, from Moorpark, Calif.; Jake Eidson, 18, from Littleton, Colo.; Sean Rayhall, 18, from Winston, Ga.; Skylar Robinson, 17, from Augusta, Ga.; Elliott Skeer, 18, from Carlsbad, Calif.; Madison Snow, 17, from Pleasant Grove, Utah; Adrian Starrantino, 18, from Simi Valley, Calif.; and Aaron Telitz, 21, from Birchwood, Wis. All have won races this year in their respective championships.
|8th Candidate Skylar Robinson – already racing and winning in Europe and perhaps a shoe-in for one of the two slots|
Robinson participated in the interview session on Friday evening via a live link from Brands Hatch, England, where he was racing (and winning) at the weekend. All of the other contenders were on site at Mid-Ohio, auditioning for two opportunities to display their talents on the international stage at the traditional end-of-season Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy events in England.
The panel of judges comprised past scholarship winners Bryan Herta, Kimball, J.R. Hildebrand, Joel Miller, Conor Daly, Josef Newgarden and Spencer Pigot along with a wide variety of industry leaders including Tim Cindric (Penske Racing), Mike Hull (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), John Doonan (Mazda Motorsports)), Brad Kettler (Audi Sport), Derrick Walker and Jason Penix (INDYCAR), Dan Andersen (Pro Mazda/USF2000), Nigel Tuckey (Pelfrey Performance), Dr. Jacques Dallaire (Performance Prime), Jim Leo (PitFit Training), Billy Deakins (Sparco USA), Kelly Jones (RaceCraft1) as well as Indy Lights race winner Peter Dempsey, NBC Sports Network TV announcers Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Kevin Lee, and RACER contributor Marshall Pruett.
“It was just an incredible weekend," said Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw. “I am so grateful to everyone who took time out of their hectic schedules during a race weekend to share their experiences with the next generation of stars, and thrilled to see so many of our scholarship winners performing so well on the race track. Perhaps it was prescient that Charlie should join us on Friday, then go on to win his first IndyCar race is such style on Sunday? The next step is to identify this year’s winners. It won’t be easy but we expect to have a decision by early September."