After a successful round of interviews in front of an illustrious panel of auto racing industry experts during the recent IndyCar/American Le Mans Series weekend at Mid-Ohio, eight finalists have been chosen to compete for three Team USA Scholarships in a two-day shootout.
The evaluations will take place next Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27-28, and will include opportunities to drive both state-of-the-art, full-motion simulators and race cars equipped with comprehensive data acquisition systems. The finalists also will be treated to a three-hour seminar on Mental Preparation hosted by noted performance expert and founder of Performance Prime, Dr. Jacques Dallaire.
The initial phase of the shootout will be held on four CXC Simulators at Chas Lawrence's Seat Time, LLC's facility in Santa Monica, Calif.
Phase 2 on Tuesday will switch over to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where the eight finalists will display their skills aboard a fleet of cars provided by Allen Berg Racing Schools. The FR1600 open-wheel cars feature carbon fiber chassis and full Motec on-board data systems. Ex-Formula 1 driver Allen Berg and accomplished race engineer Stefan Dwornik will be on hand to oversee the process.
The eight finalists are:
Neil Alberico, 19, from Redlands, Calif. – Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda
Matthew Brabham, 18, from Manalapan, Fla. – Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda (three wins, four poles)
Jake Eidson, 17, from Littleton, Colo. – Skip Barber Winter Series champion and Summer Series contender (six wins)
Conner Ford, 16, from Carson City, Nev. – Pacific Formula F Super Series (six wins)/World Challenge B-Spec
Sean Johnston, 21, from Mt. Shasta, Calif. – IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge points leader (four wins, four poles)
Jack Mitchell Jr., 16, from Clarendon Hills, Ill. – Barber Summer Series leader (three wins)/Canadian F1600 (one win)
Brandon Newey, 20, from Carmel, Ind. – F1600 Championship Series points leader (two wins)
Tristan Nunez, 16, from Boca Raton, Fla. – Cooper Tires Prototype Lites points leader (eight wins, nine poles)
The octet will vie for three fully funded rides in England later this year. Two youngsters will be entered under the Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing banner in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on October 27-28 and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone on Nov. 3-4, while one slightly more experienced driver will be invited to contest the final two rounds of the Formula Renault BARC Championship at Silverstone on October 6-7.
In addition to Jacques Dallaire, Chas Lawrence and Allen Berg, the adjudicating panel will include former Team USA Scholarship winners Bryan Herta and Connor De Phillippi, current American Le Mans Series drivers Patrick Long and Townsend Bell, stalwart Team USA supporter and vintage racer Doug Mockett and, representing the media, RACER Magazine founder and president Paul Pfanner, Michael Jordan (edmunds.com) and Preston Lerner (Automobile).
"I am delighted to welcome the involvement of several new Team USA Scholarship partners, including Seat Time, Performance Prime, Auto Club Speedway and Allen Berg Racing Schools," said motorsports writer and broadcaster Jeremy Shaw, who founded the Team USA Scholarship in 1990. "Each of these entities allows us to provide more opportunities for young drivers who will surely be stars in the future.
"The standard among the youngsters who attended our interview process was extremely high. We have already had to make some tough decisions, and making the final selections from this group is going to even more difficult."
Jimmy Vasser won the first Team USA Scholarship in 1990. Subsequent winners include open-wheel standouts Buddy Rice, Tony Renna, Memo Gidley, Phil Giebler, A.J. Allmendinger, Charlie Kimball, J.R. Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly as well as sports car stars Joey Hand, Paul Edwards, Andy Lally, Bryan Sellers and Dane Cameron.
The Team USA Scholarship also is supported by Doug Mockett & Company, Road Racing Drivers Club and its ground-breaking SAFEisFAST.com video tutorial initiative, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, IndyCar's Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda, Honda Performance Development, NameSilo, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc., Parathyroid.com, Dyson Racing, Robertson Racing, PitFit Training, Sparco USA, RACER Magazine, eFormulaCarNews.com, Speedstar Management, Styled Aesthetic and Manifest Group as well as numerous past Scholarship winners.