Jeansonne and Kotyk. Photo courtesy Team USA Scholarship

Jeansonne, Kotyk are 2017 Team USA Scholarship recipients

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The next two drivers to make their name as winners of the prestigious Team USA Scholarship are Aaron Jeansonne and Jonathan Kotyk. See the full release about the 2017 recipients below.

Two talented young American race car drivers hailing from entirely different backgrounds have earned an opportunity to represent the Team USA Scholarship following an intensive evaluation program conducted over the past few weeks.

Aaron Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., and Jonathan Kotyk, 23, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., have been selected from an impressive group of six finalists to follow in the footsteps of a long list of accomplished alumni, including IndyCar series champions Jimmy Vasser and Josef Newgarden, by traveling to England this month to contest the prestigious Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. The duo then will carry the program’s patriotic red-white-and-blue livery on their respective Cliff Dempsey Racing Ray Formula Ford cars in the subsequent Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone.

Jeansonne (left, above) and Kotyk also will gain an invitation to the second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout which will take place at the Bondurant Racing School near Chandler, Ariz., in December. The winner will secure a $200,000 prize to graduate onto the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder in 2018. Last year’s Team USA Scholarship winner, Oliver Askew, also secured that award, then went on to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and another Mazda Scholarship, worth $325,000, to graduate into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018.

Aside from a brief foray into dirt-oval karting in his native Louisiana a few years ago, Jeansonne is contesting his first season of racing and has created quite an impression in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. Kotyk has a longer and more traditional background in karting, achieving much success with the Ocala Gran Prix team before gaining his first opportunity to transition into cars this year. Kotyk finished third and posted fastest race lap in the recent SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis, and lies third in the F1600 Championship Series heading into this weekend’s final three races at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

“I can honestly say that this year’s candidates provided the judges with some of the toughest decisions in the history of this program which dates back to 1990,” said Team USA Scholarship Founder and President Jeremy Shaw. “The selection process began with 10 talented youngsters being interviewed by an illustrious panel of judges during the Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy weekend at Mid-Ohio in late July. We had a hard time whittling the group down to six for a shootout at the M1 Concourse facility in suburban Detroit, and an even tougher task in selecting our two winners.

“I am indebted to Team USA alumni Dane Cameron, Spencer Pigot, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball and Joel Miller as well as Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull, Mazda Motorsports Operations Director Kyle Kimball, American Honda Motorsports Manager T.E. McHale, Mazda Road to Indy promoter Dan Andersen, Neil Enerson of the Lucas Oil School of Racing, Aaron Bambach from M1 Concourse, Bell Racing USA Director of Motorsports Chris Wheeler and RaceCraft1 Principal Kelly Jones, among many others, for helping in the selection process. My thanks also to Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Performance Prime and Jim Leo of PitFit Training for conducting a comprehensive mental health and physical assessment of each of the candidates.”

Jeansonne and Kotyk will fly to England next week to begin preparations for the Formula Ford Festival on October 21/22.

“I couldn’t be more excited to represent the Team USA Scholarship,” said Kotyk. “With its history of past champions like Josef Newgarden, it’s something I’m honored to be a part of and look forward to bringing home a great result. I would like to thank Jeremy Shaw and the entire team behind the Team USA Scholarship for giving me this amazing opportunity.”

“I feel like the luckiest person alive,” added Jeansonne. “What was so recently just a wild dream is now a reality; I am beyond honored to be named a Team USA Scholarship Recipient. There were so many great people that helped give me this opportunity and I cannot thank them all enough.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).