Newgarden Caps “Championship Weeks” for Team USA Scholarship Alumni

Written by Team USA. Posted in Feature, Team USA News

Published on September 18, 2017 with No Comments

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif.  – When Josef Newgarden crossed the finish line yesterday in second place at Sonoma Raceway to clinch the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship in his first season with Team Penske, it capped an astonishingly successful two weeks for graduates of the Team USA Scholarship, which has been providing opportunities for talented young American drivers at an early stage in their careers since 1990.

Newgarden’s accomplishment came hot on the heels of title honors for 2016 Team USA Scholarship winners Oliver Askew, who recently secured the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Watkins Glen, and Kyle Kirkwood, who on Saturday clinched the F4 United States Championship powered by Honda at Circuit of The Americas.

After earning a Team USA Scholarship in 2008, which he parlayed into becoming the first American ever to win the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch (left), Newgarden has now followed in the footsteps of inaugural Team USA Scholarship winner Jimmy Vasser, who went on to clinch the PPG Indy Car World Series crown in 1996 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It was obvious back in 2008 that Josef was especially talented — both in and out of the car,” said Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw. “He really is a very special person, intelligent and thoughtful, so it’s been very satisfying to see him capitalize on his strengths and continue to develop his skills. A lot of people have helped him along the way but he never fails to acknowledge everyone who has helped him achieve his goals. I was thrilled last year when Roger Penske and Tim Cindric selected him to join Penske Racing and it was wonderful to see their faith being rewarded yesterday. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy and, along with all of our Team USA Scholarship supporters, I am enormously proud to have played a very small part in his progression.”

The Team USA Scholarship is one of the most successful and longest established driver development programs in the world. Almost a quarter of the drivers in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series (five out of 21 full-season campaigners: Newgarden, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand, Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot), are all products of the Team USA Scholarship program, along with reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion Dane Cameron (who will join Team Penske in 2018 to drive the Acura Prototype) and fellow current sports car stand-outs Joey Hand, Andy Lally, Joel Miller, Bryan Sellers and Trent Hindman.

Kirkwood (left) and Askew at Brands Hatch in 2016.

Askew and Kirkwood are the latest young talents to follow in their footsteps.

“If it wasn’t for the chance and opportunity the Team USA Scholarship has provided for me, my life would be completely different and I would not be fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a racing driver,” said Askew, who starred in last year’s Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy in the patriotic Team USA colors and went on to win the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout. As a result of winning this year’s USF2000 title and a second Mazda Scholarship, Askew will graduate into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy, in 2018. “I plan to keep progressing through the ranks of the Mazda Road to Indy, and to keep learning as much as I can. Special thanks to the Team USA Scholarship and its supporters for believing in me and for introducing me to the world of open-wheel motorsport.”

“Within the past 12 months of being a part of the Team USA Scholarship, many opportunities have arose that I didn’t believe would be ever possible this early in my car racing career,” added Kirkwood. “I can’t even begin to attempt to display my feelings and gratitude towards the program in words. It has given me the essential tools needed to succeed in this extremely competitive sport, on and off the track. There is no question why this program is so successful and has so many wonderful, knowledgeable supporters!”

About Team USA Scholarship:
The program has been providing opportunities for talented American race car drivers at an early stage in their careers since 1990. Supporters include Doug Mockett & Company, the Road Racing Drivers Club and, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Team Penske, Mazda, Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda Performance Development, Robertson Racing, Lucas Oil School of Racing, PitFit Training, RaceCraft1, Sparco USA, RACER Magazine, Speedstar Management, Styled Aesthetic and Manifest Group.

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