McElrea Wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout
Australian Formula Ford Champion to Join Cooper Tires USF2000 Field in 2019
CHANDLER, Ariz. (December 9, 2018) — California-born, Australian-based New Zealander Hunter McElrea rose above a talented crowd this afternoon at the Bondurant Racing School to win the third annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout.
McElrea, 19, who recently clinched the Australian Formula Ford Championship with 13 wins from the 21-race season, will move back to the United States next year to contest the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung on the highly acclaimed Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires which in 2019 will offer over $2 million in scholarships to progress from the grassroots of the sport to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
“I can’t believe it,” said McElrea. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true. They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper Tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit. I am just so happy. It is still sinking in but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”
Nineteen drivers chosen from a variety of Official Feeder Series from around the world were put through their paces during an intense two-day Shootout which included continual off-track assessment and four on-track sessions aboard the Bondurant School Formula Mazda cars on Cooper tires at the Wild Horse Pass MotorSports Park road course.
The accomplished panel of judges, comprising longtime Mazda Motorsports factory drivers Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell, along with Mazda Road to Indy champions Victor Franzoni and Oliver Askew, eventually selected six finalists — (in alphabetical order) Jake Craig, from Mission Viejo, Calif.; Michael Eastwell, from Southampton, England; Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio; Flinn Lazier, from Vail, Colo.; Ross Martin, from Kilmarnock, Scotland; and McElrea — for a qualifying session and a 30-minute simulated race from which McElrea emerged as the winner.
“Today was an incredible day,” said Long. “There was so much talent here for the Shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult. In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200K scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”
“Running these shootouts is a very important part of who Mazda is, supporting young drivers,” added John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports. “It is very important for who the brand is and we have done it for many years. Even in the future when our relationship with the Mazda Road to Indy is going to be modified, we are still going to support young drivers. For today, we are very happy and proud of Hunter and all of the drivers. Nineteen drivers started the shootout and every one of them represented themselves, their families and their teams extremely well. We are very happy to see Hunter on the grid in USF2000 next year and we wish him well as we do all of the other drivers.”
The full list of Official Feeder Series for 2019 and details on the fourth annual $200,000 Shootout will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the Americas Rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.