Below is the official press release from INDYCAR and USF2000 announcing young driver, Bobby Kelley, as the overall winner of the Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine being held at Dan Andersen’s racing complex in Palmetto, FL. For now, I’ll leave you to read USF2000’s statement, but come back later this evening as our partners from AcceleRace Motorsports will have their final thoughts and deep insights about the success of the combine and the talent that was displayed over the past few days.
Official release from INDYCAR and USF2000
After two challenging days of business training, mock media interviews and on-track experience, Bobby Kelley of Riverside, Calif., has been selected as the winner of the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine.
The 19-year-old, representing the International Karting Federation, will have the opportunity to compete in the two Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda races at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March.
“I am at a loss for words,” Kelley said. “This is an amazing program to win, and I can’t wait to get on the track and show you what I can do. This is the first step to my formula car career so we will use this opportunity and try to move up the ladder. I was very surprised to win with all of the great talent here this week. I am very thankful to have won the first Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine.”
On competition day, the 10 drivers participated in a five-lap qualifying simulation, where they were instructed to clock at least one fast lap. The drivers then did a 10-lap race-run simulation where they were instructed to keep their lap times consistent over the 10 laps. All activity was taken under consideration by the four-person panel of expert judges, consisting of motorsports writer and commentator Jeremy Shaw, Director of Mazda Motorsports-Mazda North America Operations John Doonan, Firestone Indy Lights driver Anders Krohn and Director of Business Development for Firestone Indy Lights Tony George, Jr.
“Bobby stood out among the participants in the scouting combine, and he quickly demonstrated his ability to get up to speed in a short period of time,” George said. “Bobby was not only consistent, but he was fast. We are excited to present him with this opportunity to compete in a USF2000 event this season. Hopefully this program will give him the experience he needs to progress his career into open-wheel racing.”
Belardi Auto Racing engineer Mike Reggio and USF2000 driver coach Gerardo Bonilla spent time with each driver after they got out of the car and gave them tips on how to improve for the next run. The judges noted how the drivers were applying the tips they received from the team.
Just as driving in a USF2000 was a new experience for most of the participants, so were the resources they had available to them throughout the combine.
“I have never experienced having the resource of a driver coach available, and it has been extremely helpful to me,” said Florida Karting Championship Series representative Eric Filgueiras. “We went over the data, talked about the track and discussed the corners I could improve on with braking and acceleration. It all came together and added up for a successful race run.”
Following on-track activity, the drivers participated in mock interviews on pit lane, testing their ability to handle media. While one group was on track, the other group received a business seminar from John Doonan.
“Motorsports has become a business, and all of the team owners and top-level management at INDYCAR and Mazda realize how important the business aspect of it is,” Doonan said. “We have used this combine to also teach the drivers how important marketing, building corporate sponsorships and PR skills are and how to act in the race car and out of the car.”
The intention to run a scouting combine featuring some of the most talented karters in North America was announced earlier this year. With the announcement, INDYCAR continued its mission to take an active role in the development of the next generation of IZOD IndyCar Series drivers.
The Mazda Road to Indy was designed to help drivers develop the building blocks necessary to reaching the IZOD IndyCar Series. The path consists of a three-prong system: Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Firestone Indy Lights. The champion of each series receives a scholarship from Mazda to move up to the next series. The Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine provides a great opportunity for young drivers to begin their journey in the system.
“I am very pleased with the outcome of the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine,” George said. “I was really impressed by the talent represented here by the various grassroots series. This was the first time for many of the participants to drive a formula car and we were pleased with the progress each driver made over the course of the two days.
“It is very important to include the grassroots series in our developmental program and it is our plan to continue to offer the up and coming drivers exposure to the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.”