If you ask me, anyone who has ever uttered a word of disappointment or expressed a lack of hope or faith in “kids today” probably hasn’t had much exposure to them.
In terms of hope and faith in kids today, mine is renewed each time I interact with them and see what they’re capable of. We often see it in racing, but there are good examples everywhere. One such example is my own kids and their peers in the disciplines they pursue. I am continually amazed at what teachers, mentors and instructors can get out of them. For example, my daughter has been part of “The Nutcracker” ballet for the last 10 years, with girls ages 6 to 18, and they are always genuinely polished productions.
My son’s middle school band recently played a concert at the high school and I was amazed at how tight they were. These are kids playing complex classical music, and nailing it.
Lest you think I’m just bragging about my kids, let me add how impressed I was with the undergrads I taught when I was finishing graduate school. But let’s focus on motorsports, another discipline where we can witness how much kids are capable of.
To give young drivers more opportunities, NASA recently debuted the Teen Mazda Challenge, a national program for kids ages 13 to 20 who want to move up from karting to take that “next step” into automobile racing and on into professional motorsports. Until now, there really wasn’t a sanctioning body offering kids a chance to move into car racing.
Teen Mazda Challenge was pioneered in the NorCal Region by Ron Cortez, who unfortunately passed away in January. Ron saw a lot of potential in today’s kids, too, and NASA is proud to continue the Teen Mazda Challenge with the same spirit and faith in young drivers that Ron had.
Thanks to Mazda Motorsports, regional TMC champions are eligible for nomination to the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout, the grand prize of which is a scholarship valued at $100,000 applicable to a season of racing in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
NASA is offering driver advancement scholarships to TMC regional champions and the Ron Cortez Memorial Award, which makes TMC regional competitors finishing in the three podium positions in their regions eligible for $1,000, $500, $300 in direct cash benefits to assist them with racing in the NASA Championships.
In addition, the top five finishing TMC competitors at the NASA Championships will be eligible for $400 in Hawk Performance product certificates that will assist them in purchasing brake pads for the season.
Already, past Teen Mazda Challenge drivers have gone on to greater things. Will Rodgers moved up from the Teen Mazda Challenge and went on to race in the K&N West stock car series — where he showed NASCAR ace Kevin Harvick what the back of his car looks like during a race at Sonoma. Joey Bickers races in the Global MX-5 Cup as does last year’s Road to the 24 Shootout winner Selin Rollan. Elliott Skeer went on to race and win in the Carrera Cup USA.
Of course, the level of competition in Spec Miata certainly helps season young talent in a measurable way, but the Teen Mazda Challenge gives them a solid rung on the ladder to professional racing.
Kids today? Have faith in them. They might surprise you.