For the 33rd consecutive year, the Team USA Scholarship will provide opportunities for talented young American race car drivers to gain some international recognition at an early stage in their careers. Next week at the challenging Polecat Training Center facility in Lynchburg, Tenn., six finalists will participate in two days of assessments which will include driving on the technical 2.1-mile road course aboard the Polecat Racing Academy’s well proven 2.0-liter formula cars as well as a fitness evaluation with industry expert Jim Leo, president of Indianapolis, Ind.-based PitFit Training.
Ultimately, a pair of winners will be invited to contest the 51st Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, on October 22/23, and the equally prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone, held in honor of the founding father of Formula Ford, on the first weekend in November.
The finalists have been chosen from a group of 12 candidates, each of whom was invited to submit a variety of assignments which were evaluated by more than 35 auto racing insiders representing virtually every aspect of the sport.
The six finalists are:
• Elliott Budzinski, 19, from Ann Arbor, Mich. – partial season in the FRP F1600 Championship Series
• Alessandro De Tullio, 16, from Miami, Fla. – currently second in USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires
• William Ferguson, 18, from Pacifica, Calif. – currently leads the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship (Canada)
• Ayrton Houk, 19, from McCordsville, Ind. – currently second in the FRP F1600 Championship Series
• Colin Queen, 17, from Palm City, Fla. – currently second in the BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 Championship (UK)
• Thomas Schrage, 17, from Bethel, Ohio – currently leads the FRP F1600 Championship Series
Thomas Annunziata, 16, from Colts Neck, N.J.; Matt Christensen, 17, from Orlando, Fla.,; Nicholas Rivers, 18, from Wheatley Heights, N.Y.; Timothy Steele, 18, from Westfield, Ind.; Jack Sullivan, 16, from Hamilton, Ohio; and Westin Workman, 17, from Charlotte, N.C., also were part of the original selection process.The final decision will be made by a panel of judges which will include former Team USA Scholarship winners Jerry Nadeau (1993/’96), Andy Lally (‘99), Aaron Jeansonne (2017) and Bryce Aron (‘20), as well as Kelly Jones, proprietor of RaceCraft1 Motorsports Training, Honda/Acura Public Relations representative Dan Layton, author and RACER Marketing and Media editor Steve Nickless, and Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw.
“Racing at the Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival in 1993 and then the Nations Cup a few years later with Tony Renna were two of the greatest experiences in my career,” said Nadeau, a former NASCAR Cup Series race winner who has not competed since sustaining a serious head injury in an accident at Richmond International Raceway in 2003. “I learned a whole lot during my time with the Team USA Scholarship and am very grateful for the opportunities I was given. I’m really pleased that Jeremy has kept the program going for all these years and I’m excited to be part of it again.”
LAST YEAR’S SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS HAVE EXCELED IN 2022
2021 Team USA Scholarship winners, Andre Castro (left) and Max Esterson, are well into their 2022 professional racing programs, boosted by stellar performances in England last fall. In the 21st Annual Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Final at Silverston, Esterson became the fourth Team USA Scholarship driver to win top honors, following in the wheel tracks of Conor Daly (2008), Connor De Phillippi (2009) and Tristan Nunez (2012). Castro bowed out early with a balky shifter. Earlier, both Esterson (second) and Castro (third) finished on the podium in the 50th BRSCC Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.
2022 has proved productive for both drivers as they advance their careers. Castro is competing in inaugural USF Juniors season for International Motorsport and Doug Mockett & Company and is running consistently in the top five. Esterson is driving this season for Douglas Motorsport in the GB3 Championship, formerly the BRDC British F3 series. In three races at Donington Park in late May/early June, Esterson scored his first pole, his first podium, his first victory and two fastest laps. The lads are rolling.
DIXON OVERHAULS ANDRETTI
Scott Dixon’s come-from-behind victory in what proved a messy Music City Grand Prix in Nashville last weekend was the 53rd of his stellar Indy Car racing career and moved the New Zealander one win ahead of Mario Andretti on the all-time list, now behind only A. J. Foyt, Jr. still comfortably ahead with 67.