Force Indy, new driver Myles Rowe begin preparations for first USF2000 season


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.

Rod Reid

“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).

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.”

Myles Rowe

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.”

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”