Opportunity Awaits

The life of a race car driver never seems to slow down.  It may be the offseason, but I’ve been constantly on the go! After winning the 2016 FormulaSPEED championship, I’ve put all my focus into creating opportunities for the next few years. The recent weeks have been a mix of celebration, enthusiasm and nostalgia. However, my excitement for the future has never been this colossal. 

The wave of good fortune started as I crossed the final finish line of the season. After receiving my trophy, capturing a few photos, and speaking at the awards banquet, I packed all my gear and drove down to San Diego for some post-season fun. I met up with my good friends Clay, Carole and USF2000 driver Dakota Dickerson. We went deep-sea fishing, played games, and even talked a bit about future endurance races (more on this soon). It was a wonderful way for me to unwind, reflect and celebrate my championship. 

After I returned home, I had a few days off to focus on a remarkable opportunity. Winning the FormulaSPEED Championship meant I was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. It’s a competition that invites champions from around the world to compete for a $200,000 scholarship. To be invited to this historic and respected event would be phenomenal. In order to get the invitation, I submitted a letter and video for Mazda and Andersen Promotions explaining why I felt worthy of being part of the competition. My fellow competitor Bruno Carneiro was a semi-finalist as well. However, Mazda would only select one of us to participate in the event. After a few days of composing, I submitted my finished video and letter to Mazda. Now it was time to anxiously wait as they reviewed each driver and made their final decision. 

Unsure of the announcement date, I tried to keep my mind off of the topic. The great thing about motorsports is that there is always something to work on. During this time, I decided to take on a few sponsorship deals. First, I went over to Yoshida Sushi to talk about Fontana with the whole staff, show them my new trophy, and share some sake with the chefs. Yoshi was so thrilled with my final results that he gave me an early check for 2017! What an awesome night!

Shortly after, the nostalgia train paid me a visit when Jesus Ochoa of Ochoa Pallets Inc. (OPI) graciously sponsored me for 2017! Jesus was my first ever business sponsor in 2012. Some things don’t change, as this deal is built on a foundation of trust, results and most importantly respect. I can’t thank Ochoa Pallets Inc enough for still supporting me after all these years! It’s great to have them as part of my 2017 team. 

Not long after placing the OPI logos on my helmet, I found myself leaving Alhambra yet again. I travelled to Buttonwillow Raceway to help with the 2017 VMB Driver Development Scholarship Shootout. It was rewarding to witness the new crop of drivers awaiting to embark on the journey I am on now. To start off the day, I gave the new drivers a quick walkthrough of the track. Remembering how nervous I was last year, I assured the drivers that this was a great opportunity no matter what the outcome. As the day proceeded, I got to know the drivers a bit better, witnessed some in-depth interviews, and gave a quick speech on how to attract sponsors. When that was completed, I watched the final sessions take place. It was a strange yet calming experience as I witnessed the 24 car being driven by new drivers. I was finally ready to say goodbye to the #24.

When I arrived home, I was notified that MAZDA had made a decision and would share it on a conference call later that week. Surprisingly, I found myself in a tranquil state of mind. No matter what was decided, I would hold my head up high knowing that I accomplished a lot in 2016. I have learned lessons that are truly priceless, looked within myself to find greater strength, and showed myself that confidence is truly key to success. When the time came, I picked up the phone. On the other end of the line was Jim Bowie (Director of Motorsports at Mazda North America) and Kyle Kimball (Operations Manager). As we talked, I learned about their success in motorsports & how they are some of the most influential people in the industry. It was certainly a pleasure speaking with them. After about 15mins, I finally heard what I was wishing to hear, “Jonathan we would like to invite you to be a part of this year’s Mazda Road to Indy Shootout.” I felt so honored. Words started to escape me as I attempted to express my excitement. I thanked them both, said our goodbyes, hung up the phone, and started to celebrate!

As an aspiring racer, I often think about what “the dream” of being a professional driver is like. However, it recently occurred to me that I am living the dream right now! I am currently living in the best time of my life. I get to travel with my best friends, go wheel to wheel with some of the best talent the future of motorsports has to offer, and network with the industry’s biggest names. I’m learning everyday how to better appreciate and respect this opportunity. I will never take for granted the strength and support that I’ve received from friends, family and sponsors. 

Well, you are all caught up now! And of all things, you find me writing this blog while lying in bed recovering from the recent removal of all my wisdom teeth. Luckily, I’m recovering very well and will be returning to action very soon. It’s time to start my training and preparation for the MRTI Shootout. So, I’ll soon return to the gym, gather as much information as I can from my peers to study, and put down as many laps on the simulator as I can to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be before the shootout. 

Thank you all for reading. I’ll report back with more updates soon! Until Next Time!

- Jonathan