2011 Team USA Scholarship winners Trent Hindman, Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico
Some previous scholarship winners include INDYCAR drivers and now team owners Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta, Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, current INDYCAR drivers Charlie Kimball, J.R. Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden, American Le Mans Series GT champion Joey Hand and ALMS/Grand-Am contender Bryan Sellers.
Conor Daly, currently racing in GP3 benefited from a scholarship, as did Connor De Phillippi and Spencer Pigot, both up-and-coming open wheel talents. Since 1990, the Team USA Scholarship has provided opportunities for these young American drivers to showcase their talents in international competition, customarily quite early in their racing careers.
This year's group of candidates will get 'grilled' by panel of judges during this weekend's races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, featuring the IZOD IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series. The big prize is three fully-funded rides in England later this year, with two drivers having Team USA Scholarship/Cliff Dempsey Racing as their entry.
They'll be racing in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on October 27-28 and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone on November 3-4. One slightly more experienced driver receives an invitation to contest the final two rounds of the Formula Renault BARC Championship at Silverstone on October 6-7.
The fourteen candidates vying for these three seats and are (in alphabetical order):
- Neil Alberico, 19, Redlands, Calif. – Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda
- Luigi Biangardi, 16, Chicago, Ill. – Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda (one pole)
- Matthew Brabham, 18, Manalapan, Fla. – Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda (one win, three poles)
- Tristan DeGrand, 16, Eureka, Mo. – Skip Barber Racing Summer Series race winner
- Jake Eidson, 17, Littleton, Colo. – Skip Barber Winter Series champion and Summer Series points leader)
- Conner Ford, 16, Carson City, Nev. – Pacific Formula F Super Series (six wins)
- Sean Johnston, 21, Mt. Shasta, Calif. – IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge points leader (two wins, two poles)
- Bobby Kelley, 20, Riverside, Calif. – Pacific F2000 points leader (three wins, two poles)
- Jack Mitchell Jr., 16, Clarendon Hills, Ill. – Skip Barber Summer Series (three wins)/Canadian F1600 (one win)
- Brandon Newey, 19, Carmel, Ind. – F1600 Championship Series points leader (two wins)
- Tristan Nunez, 16, Boca Raton, Fla. – Cooper Tires Prototype Lites points leader (six wins, seven poles)
- Adrian Starrantino, 17, Simi Valley, Calif. – Skip Barber Summer Series (three wins)
- Colin Thompson, 18, Perkasie, Pa. – Cooper Tires USF2000/F1600 Championship Series (one win)
- Falco Wauer, 16, (currently living in Drobak, Norway) – UK Formula 4 (five wins)/European Formula Ford
Those doing the judging are INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, American Le Mans Series president Scott Atherton, Mazda North American Operations director of motorsports John Doonan, Cooper Tires director of motorsports Chris Pantani, USF2000 series promoter Dan Andersen, ALMS race engineer and Jeff Braun from Level 5 Motorsports. Performance Prime founder Dr Jackques Dellaire will serve as the Road Racing Drivers Club representative and PitFit president Jim Leo are also judging. Additionally, former Team USA Scholarship winners Herta, Kimball, Hildebrand, Newgarden, Hand and Sellers will be on-hand to assist and offer advise.
The Team USA Scholarship gets support from a good number of racing entities, including Doug Mockett & Co., Road Racing Drivers Club, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Walldinger Racing, Robo-Pong, INDYCAR's Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda, Honda Performance Development, NameSilo, Silicon Salvage, McMurry Inc., Robertson Racing, PitFit Training, and Sparco USA. Past scholarship winners also continue to support the program.