NASA Teen Mazda Challenge driver Wyatt Couch bested a field 40 cars to win the $20,000 scholarship from Mazda Motorsports.

Wyatt Couch became familiar with Spec Miata when he was racing karts in Northern California. When he wanted to enter sports car racing, he chose a Spec Miata and Teen Mazda Challenge.

It turned out to be a pretty good move for Couch, who won the $20,000 Teen Mazda Challenge Scholarship race in August at Sonoma Raceway. In a weekend with three races, the finishes of which affected the starting position for the final scholarship race, Couch finished third in TMC and fourth overall in the first race. In the second race, Couch finished second in TMC and third overall.

That put him on the front row for the start of the scholarship race, but he would have to beat the very quick first-year TMC driver Chris Nunes and Roy Fulmer IV, who is exceptionally quick at Sonoma. Nunes did take the lead briefly, but Couch held on for the win and the scholarship.

We caught up with Couch to find out a bit more about this young driver.

Q: Can you tell me about your background in karting?

A: Starting at the age of four I progressed through the ranks racing karts until I was 16 years old. I was successful in winning multiple championships along with 27 race wins. To this day I still enjoy driving karts a few times a week and race them when scheduling permits.

Q: Is there any other form of racing you think would better prepare young drivers for Spec Miata than karting? Say, dirt track racing, or asphalt midgets?

A: I think any kind of racing as a kid is a good platform to build skills to move up to Spec Miata racing. Whether it be dirt or asphalt, the concept is still the same. It teaches you the basics and how to form good sportsmanship. Being respectful to other racers is key moving into any kind of car racing.

Q: You had a good weekend at Sonoma the weekend of the Teen Mazda Challenge scholarship race. What did you do to prepare for that event?

A: My dad and I spend every weekend in the garage working on our car. Whether it be maintenance or race prep, there is always something to do. For this race, we prepared the car by aligning it, changing all fluids, along with our routine checkup making sure all bolts were tight, confirming there was not any prior damage missed and basically going through the car front to back. Leading up to this race I was able to drive karts frequently in the weeks prior, which helped keep my driving skills sharp. We’ve had to get creative with workouts during COVID and karting is great conditioning.

Q: A lot of TMC drivers choose the 1990-1993 1.6-liter chassis. Why do you think that is, or at the very least, why did you choose the 1.6-liter car?

A: The 1.6 is more readily available, inexpensive, easy to find parts for and a good starter car. For me personally, it was all I could afford. Aside from attending school full-time I also work full-time and purchased my own racecar along with continuing to pay for all parts and race entries. I’m fortunate to have a few sponsors that help me with coaching, racing safety apparel, powder coating and painting for my car.

Q: Where would you like to see yourself in five years? How about 10 years? Be specific.

A: In five years I would like to see myself graduating from college with a degree in mechanical engineering and still racing as often as possible. I’m open to trying any type of car to race, and in 10 years hope I’ve earned a spot as a professional racer. I’m excited to have won the $20k scholarship from Teen Mazda Challenge, which will help put me one step closer to my 10-year goal.

Q: Finish this sentence for me: If I weren’t involved with racing, I’d probably be. …

A: A mechanical engineer, designing and creating aftermarket car parts and suspension pieces or serving as an engineer on a race team.

Q: What other kinds of things do you do with your leisure time?

A: Besides preparing and maintaining the racecar, I work on modifying my two street cars along with keeping up on school work. Granted, my school work takes up a good chunk of time, I still find a way to fit in workouts or go karting to stay in shape.

Q: If you had one word of advice for young drivers and families considering joining Teen Mazda Challenge, what would that be?

A: Do it. Join the program. As someone who really enjoys racing, but is on a tight budget, Teen Mazda Challenge provides strong incentives to do well by offering contingency prizes towards tires and parts, along with high dollar scholarships as you progress. Also, the people involved with the program have the same passion as us racers, and you can feel it.

Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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