Op-Ed – A Pro Mazda Carol: Part 2, The Present USF2000

Part Two of my three-part series looking at the future of the new Pro Mazda Series focuses on the success the new owners of Pro Mazda, Andersen Promotions, has had with the revived Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. I feel safe in assuming that the leadership philosophy that has lead to a strong first step on the Mazda Road to Indy, the USF2000 series, will also be applied to the Pro Mazda Series in the coming seasons.

The Evolution of USF2000

My thoughts on where the new Pro Mazda Series is headed in the future are largely based on my observations of how Andersen Promotions has operated and evolved USF2000 since it’s rebirth in 2010. In 1992, Dan Andersen and Mike Foschi created an Eastern F2000 series to compliment Doug Powell’s West-coast USAC F2000 series. Both series utilized the same technical specifications as the SCCA national F2000 series. When the three series merged under Dan Andersen’s leadership in 1994, participation was strong with fields averaging around 50+ cars! This was the product of a relatively cheap yet open spec with widely available chassis. The series was sold to Jon Baytos in 2001 who then went and did something stupid; he moved away from the SCCA-compliant equipment spec. After that ill-advised change, participation plummeted and the series folded in 2006.

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Andersen resurrected the series in 2010 on the urging from INDYCAR as Tony George, Jr. and Jason Penix were working on building the Road to Indy program. During the initial year, the series was divided into two classes, a restrictive spec-chassis/engine Championship class, and a more open, but with lower performance, National class. That first year, ten drivers from seven teams compete in the majority of events. Only four drivers, Andretti Autosports’ Sage Karam and Zach Veach, and JDC MotorSports’ Mikhail Goikhberg and Raphael Abbate, contested every event that year. In 2011, the structure of the series remained the same, but with Mazda now on board as an official partner of the newly renamed Mazda Road to Indy, participation in the series grew. The Championship Class grid doubled in size with eight drivers competing in every event. The National Class was still languishing with barely a half-dozen cars each race. Things started looking up toward the end of the season, however, and the USF2000 National Championship ended the year with a record grid size (since their re-emergence) of 19 cars.

The game-changer for USF2000 came in the Fall of 2011 when it was announced that the SCCA Formula Enterprise chassis would be permitted to compete along with the Formula Continental chassis in the National Class.

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This opened up a significant pool of affordable and available equipment, and the grid sizes reflected the new surge of interest in the USF2000 series. The opening round of the 2012 USF2000 season at Sebring saw 36 drivers take the green flag, double the number that took the checkers in the last race of 2011. Headed into the 2013 season, SCCA Enterprises will be the presenting sponsor for the USF2000 National Class and will offer a scholarship for the National Class champion to compete in the Championship class. The series, in addition to being the first step of the Mazda Road to Indy, it’s also part of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder. In short, there are a lot of positive relationships and partnerships that Mr. Andersen and his team have cultivated. Those partnerships have resulted in a robust and vibrant junior formula series.

Tomorrow, we’ll apply the lessons from Star Mazda’s past and USF2000’s present to speculate about Pro Mazda’s future. I say the future is pretty bright if Pro Mazda follows a similar path of inclusion as USF2000 has.

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