Michai Stephens’ Diary: Month of May produces a magic opportunity
There are 12 months in every year but ONE makes a statement like no other in the racing community. Yeah, you guessed it, the Month of May! On Memorial Day weekend, the biggest spectacle in motorsports comes out to play at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Filled with emotion and outright history, my first visit to the “500” has come and gone in dramatic fashion, leaving an impression I will never forget. (BELOW, with Alex Gurney).
In May of 2014, exactly 12 months ago, I set in motion what would soon become a life-changing year by securing a fully-funded season after winning the 2013 Skip Barber Racing School Shootout. My goal at the time was to make the impossible possible. I come from a family without any ties to the racing community or motorsport. Throughout the year I would be pitted against many great rising talents. I faced this challenge with a tremendous desire to earn and maintain a sense of belonging.
As the green flag flew in the first race in May at NOLA Motorsports Park, I shot up from fourth to first place, and then held the lead for the first lap of the 2014 season. At that moment, I felt the connection I had been searching for. Getting to that point cemented my confidence in the desire to be behind the wheel of a racing car, and I felt a genuine dedication to my goals. With the tremendous support of others, my passion strengthened as the year progressed.
The highlight of the year was the nomination and then selection for the Team USA Scholarship. My time spent overseas became a major turning point in my development and learning curve. A third-place finish in the Grand Finale at the Walter Hayes Trophy has undoubtedly become my fondest memory in racing. Returning home, an end-of-the-year Skip Barber Racing School Championship Shootout was all that stood in my way in respect to a ride in the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The competition concluded with me earning the highest judging score and highest accumulated total score. Unfortunately, one of the five races was eliminated from the final scoring, which dropped me to an extremely close second-place finish.
Moving into 2015, Indianapolis started to become a second home, rather than a place to visit. With the plethora of resources and support at my disposal, I muscled the three-hour ride down I-65 more times than I could count. But heading into the week of the 500, this ride felt different. An opportunity to experience and participate in an up-and-coming SAFEisFAST.com video tutorial, Mazda Road To Indy Seminars and Summits, the traditional Day (Night) Before the 500, and, of course, the Indianapolis 500, meant I had a pretty jammin’ schedule!
As the week progressed, the feeling of comfort I had found showcased itself many times over. The world of motorsport has become a way of life for me now. Gaining a foothold has proven to be nothing short of a cherished accomplishment, with this progressively shrinking world becoming more and more enjoyable.
I had been working on some ideas over the past weeks, and found myself enjoying a conversation the night before the 500 with Mr. Jay Green from Jay Motorsports. The MAGICAL Month of May struck down with all its might when an agreement was reached between us to partner up in this weekend’s SCCA Pro F1600 Championship race at VIR. I could hardly believe it! All my efforts in 2015 had been leading up to this very reason. The opportunity and privilege to reconnect my rear-end into the seat of an open wheel racing car!
From experiencing the 500 for the first time, to moving forward in pursuit of my dream, I hope this magical month will become a staple in my career. With hopes of one day racing in the 500, this early connection to this oh-so-special month has helped me to feel right at home . . .To those out there wavering on their dream, I encourage you to take the FIRST STEP. Challenge your belief of what is possible. Heck, you may be surprised where you end up . . .
My deepest appreciation goes out to everyone in our sport and those who have supported me. The Team USA Scholarship, SAFEisFAST.com, Racer Magazine, Skip Barber Racing School, RaceCraft1, iRacing.com, Mazda & The Road To Indy, Andersen Promotions, Top Gear Technologies, HySpeedLLC, BTRacing, Styledaesthetic, SCCA, HPD, NXG, the fast world of the Verizon IndyCar Series, and many more for your incredible efforts towards the world of motorsport!
As we drive forward, I am excited to discover what the future holds!
To be continued…