Myles Rowe is approaching his first season in the USF2000 much like his Force Indy team is viewing its push to diversify motorsports.
“I’d say progression,” Rowe said Friday when asked about his 2021 goals in an interview with NBC Sports (watch the video above). “You can always say you want to win a championship. I can always say I want to win 5, 6, 7, 8 races. But we have to think realistically. The goal in life is progression.
“If you don’t grow, you can’t get better and, in this case, win. With everything that’s happening, everything that’s a first, we have to think realistic. And the thing that’s going to make us proceed in the right way is focusing purely on growth.
“Look at the positives, look at the negatives and analyze them and grow from that. And if you go into the next weekend, the next day, the next week and grow off the mistakes you learned, that’s a success, especially for us. The only thing I and the team are worried about is just progression.”
Rowe and Force Indy were testing Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, three days after Rowe officially was named as the driver for the No. 99 that will make its debut at Barber Motorsports Park, where the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will begin the season April 15-18.
Force Indy was launched in December at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Race for Equality and Change, an initiative kick-started by IMS and NTT IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske that is aimed at building minority involvement in racing.
Rod Reid, team principal for Force Indy, started by hiring three Black team members from his NXG Youth Motorsports program.
“You don’t change this sport in a month or three months or maybe even three years,” Reid said. “I think we’re well on the path to do that, starting with the first hires that we did. Another thing that is extremely important, we surrounded ourselves with great folks in communications and management that would help us to become more visible.
“When I say us, I’m not just talking about Force Indy but the whole notion that African-Americans are in motorsports and have been involved in motorsports. It seems that there’s this thought that we just showed up one day and all of a sudden we got a chance that Mr. Penske gave us an opportunity to run cars. I’ve been around motorsports for 40 years. And there are a lot of African-Americans that participate at all levels from drag racing to open wheel and sports cars.
“So I think the idea of us being able to demonstrate that we can start to reach the higher level of professional racing is encouraging to them. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from individuals in and around the sport, both Black and white, who are encouraging, and they say it’s about time we get to highlight and showcase African-American talent. We’ve started that.”
The team pays homage to Black history with its car number, which was used in 1951 by Dewey Gatson, one of the winningest African-American drivers and mechanics in racing history. Reid said the No. 99 also is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen (the 99th was the U.S. military’s first Black flying squadron).
Another fun Black history fact:
The Red Tails were the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
— Force Indy Race Team (@forceindy99) February 13, 2021
Reid said Force Indy remains committed to being comprised entirely by African-Americans in the long-term.
“We have had an opportunity to look beyond the obvious mechanic and engineering and team management driver positions and are starting to get a little deeper,” he said. “We think within a year we’ll have others in the office, behind the scenes. We really need to have the full team, everything from our transport folks to those who handle tires and ordering. It’s just a process.
“We’ll hopefully influence other teams all the way up the Road to Indy ladder to hire Blacks. And same at the IndyCar level. We’re hopefully opening the door and letting folks see we have a wealth of talent that should be considered. That’s all. We’re just asking to be considered. Not saying you should hire because of our skin color or ethnicity. We really want teams to take a look and say there are a lot of talented individuals who happen to be African-American.”
Rowe, 20, lives in New York where he attends Pace University studying filmmaking and photography. The Atlanta, Georgia, native began racing go karts at 12, winning a championship in his first year and being praised by 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power.
Within the first day of being announced as the driver for Force Indy (which held an open test last month at Circuit of the Americas), Rowe posted he had gained 2,000 followers on Instagram.
“It’s been all supportive,” he said. “No negative anything on any platform for me. Nobody’s tried to come for me or anything like that. It’s been really nice, and I’m super super grateful and blessed for that to be the situation for me. I can’t say thank you enough; everybody has been of great support and great help. And I couldn’t ask for any better to be honest, it’s been wonderful.”
Rowe was in the midst of a three-year hiatus from racing (after running out of funding) to attend college. While he intends to remain in New York and isn’t pausing his studies (“You never put creativity on hold”), Rowe said racing again is his main focus.
“We’re on the Road to Indy, and the goal is IndyCar,” Rowe said. “Personally, I’d love to fly planes, I’d love to do rally cars and the Dakar Rally. I have personal goals, but the real objective for right now in time is IndyCar.”
The USF2000 circuit is the first rung on the Road to Indy single-seater ladder system that leads to the NTT IndyCar Series.
Reid said Force Indy is working on acquiring a shop in Indianapolis. The team currently is based out of Concord, North Carolina, near Team Penske’s Mooresville headquarters, which supports Force Indy with personnel and resources.
“We’re blessed to have that mentoring relationship with Roger Penske and Team Penske,” he said. “Their tutelage is unparalleled. It’s just awesome to be brought along the way by the best. There’s no question they have a process of winning. We hope to be sponges and absorb that and become winners ourselves.”