Now that the 2023 USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires season has officially wrapped up, it is time to analyze and digest an amazing year. 2023 began with many questions for me. Without a budget to begin the year, it almost felt as though the season was over before it even began. My only concrete plan was to work as a pit reporter, cameraman and announcer for Kart Chaser, a company my good friend Xander Clements started several years ago providing live stream coverage of premiere karting events across the United States. My own racing was a big question mark and a heavy “to be determined.”
I had tested several times over the winter with the massively successful Pabst Racing organization, a heavy-hitting team in the USF Pro Championships. In prior years, I had competed sporadically in USF2000, only managing partial seasons due to budgetary restrictions. With my sights set on a complete season of USF2000, I was determined to drive at as many events as possible. This, however, was shortsighted and poorly thought out. I scraped together enough budget to make it to one event, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but it took a massive effort and many people to just make it to one race. The thought of pulling together an entire season was overwhelming. This was further amplified by the events that were to follow.
With a rocket start to winter testing, I was ready to hit the streets of St. Pete and go racing for a chance to save my career. Rapidly, the situation took a turn for the worse. Before we ever took the green flag for a race, I found myself sidelined and worriedly assessing the possibilities of my future. My worst nightmare had unfolded in the midst of qualifying. I lost the car through a quick section at the start of a lap. In any other case at most other tracks, it would have been a minor trip through the grass before resuming my pursuit of a fast lap. However, this track runs through downtown St. Pete and is surrounded by concrete. A minor loss of control saw my car bounce off both walls and destroy almost everything but the tub of the Tatuus chassis. In an instant, any hope I had of racing for the full season had been replaced by the thought of the financial burden of the wreck.
So many people came together and sacrificed to give me a chance, and I had thrown it away before it even began.
After being cleared from the medical center and returning to the Pabst Racing tents, I found a mass scramble from everyone on the team to put the No. 22 car back together. It was simply overwhelming. Without missing a beat, everyone picked up their tools and had the car back together before the night was over. To keep racing was a miracle, and we made the most of it. Finishing off the first weekend with an 11-spot improvement to fourth place and a pole position and second-place finish in race two was a sign of good things to come.
Gavin Baker Photography
Funding, however, was still the primary obstacle. I had a massive group of friends and family supporting me, but it was still the most stressful experience of my life. We found just enough funding to compete at Sebring and the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the money was extinguished in its entirety. By this point, I found myself locked head-to-head in a championship battle as we approached the halfway point of the season. Despite the good results and the ongoing points battle, the money still wasn’t there to finish out the season.
Along came Doug Mockett, a long-time supporter of the Team USA Scholarship and a man to whom I can attribute any future success in the sport. When all seemed lost, Doug and his company helped pick up the pieces to give me a chance at my first full season in USF2000. His amazing support came with impeccable timing, turning what would be another uncompleted season into a flourishing season-long championship hunt.
I can not possibly thank Doug enough, as this would have been a very different story had he not taken a leap of faith to support our effort. With his name in large font on the side of the car, we pressed forward confidently into the latter stages of the season. Experiencing success and standing on the podium at every single track we raced at, Pabst Racing and I found ourselves with a substantial lead in the championship heading into the last weekend of competition in Portland. With points calculations flying through my mind, there was one job to be done: finish the races and win Pabst Racing their first ever driver’s championship.
We knew what had to be done and, with a third-place finish in race one at Portland, we had achieved what just a few short months earlier had seemed impossible – a driver without significant backing and a team far too deserving of a championship finally paired together for a fairytale season that neither I nor the team will ever forget. It did not feel real, and it certainly took its time to sink in. It was not until the banquet on Monday evening that I finally felt the pressure come off and a massive wave of relief take over. At the end of it all was a trophy that read “2023 USF2000 CHAMPION” and a massive check from Andersen Promotions to move forward into next year. I’ve never felt this kind of support in my life — the messages, the phone calls, the hugs, and the tears. It was almost too real. I still do not think I fully understand the weight of what Pabst Racing and I accomplished in 2023.
At the end of it all, I was just the driver. Behind the scenes was where the work was done. From Augie Pabst and Burke Harrison, my engineer, to the entirety of the Pabst Racing team, it really and truly had been a massive team effort. Off the track, an overwhelming number of people came together to lift this effort into reality. I can not thank Doug Mockett enough for his continued support, although many others help make this possible, too. My entire family, who have supported me unconditionally in my pursuit of this career, gave what they could to be a part of this dream. Big Check Race Fans, Kristi Peacock of Coastal Properties Group, and Comprent also showed their support and graciously came on board. I am grateful to everyone who has been a part of this year. Next year we will take on new challenges in the USF Pro 2000 category. For now, I can rest easy knowing that we are the 2023 USF2000 Champions!