Michai Stephens: #DefyingLabels

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Michai Stephens

Published on February 14, 2016 with No Comments

There she is — ready for our first proper test!

Sturgis, Mich. – Today marks another experience and one more step toward accomplishing my ultimate and current goals for the year….

As I sit on a pocket of air over the shop floor at RJB Motorsports, I can’t help but look to my right and see my past, present and future – with a big smile on my face! Next to me rests my 2016 Cooper Tire USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda WILD BOAR energy drink-sponsored Van Diemen-Mazda. It’s an image I have been yearning to see since the moment I stepped foot in a Skip Barber Racing School car.

We last caught up back in December at the PRI Show in Indianapolis when I officially became a driver for RJB Motorsports – a joyous statement and reality that I would be racing once again! Well, things haven’t missed a beat and the fast-approaching season has only increased the level of controlled chaos.

Inhospitable weather hampered our first test

I have spent the past few days at the team’s race shop helping out where I can and aiding in the logistics for our next test. The team and I recently returned from Savannah, Ga., where we conducted our first official test as a new team! It was a jam-packed couple of days filled with the many new experiences one could expect. With the coming together of new faces, equipment, understandings and procedures, the weekend taught us a lot about what’s to come. Having driven down with team owner Ryan Barth and good spirited Paul (the truckie), we had the pleasure of getting to know one another a bit more. Other key members of the team included John, the team engineer and AJ, my newest friend and crew chief!

Filming for a MINI SuperBowl commercial!

The week before our test, I had one of the coolest and most unexpected things happen to me. Thanks to Luis Perocarpi, owner of the JCW MINI team in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Tonine McGarvie, MINI Event Specialist, I was cast for a spot in their Big Game commercial to be aired during the third quarter of SuperBowl 50! The idea was to promote MINI and their newly refined models. The coolest thing about it all was that they were doing so by applying the hashtag #DefyLabels. Only after being swooped up from my home, taken to the airport, flown to LA and then driven directly to the studio did I actually realize the magnitude and amazingness of all this! I mean, you have to believe it hit me that moment I noticed a car outside waiting to take me to the airport! I knew it was special, but the shock value carried ALL the way until I returned home.

I spent a total of three days traveling and filming and was able to end my on-set shooting with a chance to share my story. This came with a crazy cool looking camera rotating just inches from my face. While telling my story, I quickly realized the similarities of the #DefyLabels idea and myself, just like the other sport and TV personalities on hand. We had all been defined or labeled as something generally negative and have pushed beyond them. But what seemed so special to me was the MINI Cooper’s physical and emotional attributes and how closely they related to me as a young man and racing driver.

That’s me!!

As the screen board slammed shut and the director yelled, “That’s a wrap!!” I felt this kind of weight lifted off my chest. I say this not in a negative context, but in a way I felt like I had finally shared publicly who I am, who I want to be and how I honestly felt about it. You know it takes a different kind of courage to share your honest opinions on something that means a great deal to you, especially when the world might not completely agree. But I do have to say – IT FELT GREAT!!

Check out the result at http://youtu.be.

So, as I sign off and lay my head to rest, it’s a great feeling knowing that I at least have an idea for what is to come. In 2013 I took the leap of faith; in 2014 I raced my heart out; in 2015 I found the desire within…. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has to offer!!

Many thanks to RJB Motorsports, Wild Boar Energy Drink, Metalloid and the tremendous people who have helped get me here. From new friends, family, business, and the beautiful world we all share and live in.

Michai Stephens – Over and out (for now!) ; )

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