2016 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout winner Matt Cresci is one of five NASA drivers to win the Shootout over the last seven years. This year, 13 of 19 drivers eligible for the Shootout are NASA racers.

The Mazda Road to 24 Shootout selects the very best amateur drivers who race a Mazda or Mazda-powered vehicles. The Shootout also pulls in virtual racers from the world of iRacing, competitors from the NASA Teen Mazda Challenge, the Skip Barber Series and the Formula Car National Challenge.

This year, 13 of the 19 eligible drivers selected are NASA racers. In 2014, five of the eight finalists were NASA racers, and in 2015, 15 of 23 semifinalists came from NASA. What’s even more telling, five of the last seven winners of the Shootout have come from NASA.

“NASA racers make up 68 percent of the field of eligible drivers for this year’s Mazda Road to 24 Shootout. That’s an incredible figure,” said NASA director of business development Jeremy Croiset. “It’s a testament to the level of competition in NASA, and the caliber of our drivers. We’re really proud of our guys, and we wish them the best in the Shootout.”

The drivers are competing for the Shootout’s $100,000 scholarship, which they will use to support a season of professional racing in the 2018 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. It’s the largest prize in amateur motorsports and a high-water mark for drivers selected to take part.

“The criteria for the Shootout have been created to identify the aspiring professional racer who has the most complete set of skills required to succeed in motorsport,” said David Cook, business development manager for Mazda Motorsports. “These skills include speed, consistency, race craft, technical understanding, and off-track business and PR skills. History has shown that a driver will be limited in success if he or she is lacking in multiple areas. It will be a big challenge for the judges to narrow these 19 racers to our finalists. It will be an even larger task to select a $100,000 winner.”

Now in its 12th year, the Shootout is the best way for an amateur to climb the ladder into pro racing, though it certainly isn’t the easiest. To be considered, you have to win a Championships event in a Mazda or Mazda-powered car or racing online. Mazda also awards “at-large” spots to worthy candidates.

The Shootout takes place Dec. 8, 2017, at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

NASA Drivers in the 2017 Mazda Road to 24 Shootout

  1. Jay Aranha – NASA NP01 (at-large)
  2. Ryan Dexter – Teen Mazda Challenge Rocky Mountain Region Champion
  3. Brian Henderson – Teen Mazda Challenge Mid-Atlantic Region / NASA East PTE Champion
  4. Tristan Littlehale – NASA West Spec Miata Champion
  5. Brian Lock – NASA West NP01 Champion
  6. Aaron Michelet – NASA PTC (at-large)
  7. Matt Million – Teen Mazda Challenge (at-large)
  8. Austin Newmark – NASA ST4 (at-large)
  9. Bryan Putt – NASA East Super Unlimited Champion
  10. Selin Rollan – NASA Spec Miata (at-large)
  11. Michael Ross – NASA East Spec Miata Champion
  12. Nick Sommers – Teen Mazda Challenge West Coast Region Champion
  13. Danny Soufi – Teen Mazda Challenge Texas Region Champion
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