ROAD TO INDY: Four Rotax Rising Stars Earn USF2000 Test

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – official release — IndyCar photo — After ensuring a true ladder program from the grassroots of karting to the upper echelon of motorsports in North America, the Mazda Road to Indy announced the finalists of the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group Driver Advancement Program on Monday.

The four winners will be given the opportunity to sample the next step in their careers with a test in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

“We had 12 very worthy semi-finalists, which is a testament to the caliber of drivers in the Rotax program,” said Michelle Kish, COO of Andersen Promotions. “I would like to thank our judges for giving back to the sport with not only their time but their enthusiasm. We’re excited to introduce our four winners to the USF2000 platform and, hopefully, the next step in their career paths.”

The four rising stars chosen were Oliver Askew, 17, of Tequesta, Fla.; Christian Brooks, 14, of Santa Clarita, Calif.; Sabre Cook, 19, of Grand Junction, Colo.; and Austin Versteeg, 15, of Sandy, Utah. All are competitors in the United States Rotax MAX Challenge program.

The candidates participated in in-depth video interview conferences with Verizon IndyCar Series multi-time race winner James Hinchcliffe, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Gabby Chaves, three-time Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals champion Ben Cooper and veteran karter and multi-time Team USA member Alan Rudolph. The interviews were mediated by the “voice” of the Mazda Road to Indy, eKartingNews.com’s Rob Howden.

“This was our first year working with the Mazda Road to Indy program and what a great group of people they have behind the scenes,” said MAXSpeed Group’s Richard Boisclair. “A top-notch crew made this lengthy process an easy one as we all worked seamlessly as a team. Our judges did a great job in the interview process and we couldn’t have asked for anything better. I would like to personally thank all the applicants as well as congratulate those who were chosen by our panel of judges.”

Michael McCarthy, 15, of Clearwater, Fla., was selected as first alternate should any scheduling conflicts arise with the winners.

“First off, it was great being asked to be a judge for this program,” said Hinchcliffe, who recently announced his return to Sam Schmidt Motorsports after finishing fifth with the squad in the 2009 Indy Lights title chase. “Karting is such an important element to the health and growth of motorsport in North America. As far as the 12 finalists, wow! The talent pool was deep and all of them should be proud of what they have accomplished and of making it into the finals. The interviews were a blast and they all did exceptionally well. The winners will be truly deserving, but I wish each and every one a huge amount of success in their careers.”

The drivers are each awarded a full one-day test and will turn their first USF2000 laps on Jan. 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., with the support of both Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group personnel.

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