ELKHART SEE – That’s a subtle difference.
Myles Rowe never felt like he didn’t belong on the track. But neither is he Not knew he was different.
Look around the paddock.
The NTT IndyCar Series has drivers from the United States, Canada and Mexico, from Europe and South America, from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The three development series are similar.
But black Americans? Rowe in USF2000 and Ernie Francis in Indy Lights are the only ones Rowe knows of competing at Road America this weekend.
“Anything that seems like a challenge, I just do it upside down,” said Rowe, a three-time winner, who turns 22 this month.
Growing up karting, he idolized Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso and drivers who have made it since like Charles LeClerc, George Russell and Lando Norris, and studied on-kart videos of 2021 F1 Champion Max Verstappen .
“I saw that there weren’t any people[in karting who looked like me]so I went, let me be this guy,” Rowe continued.
“It’s annoying. You shouldn’t even be thinking about that. But, yeah, it’s very noticeable, the lack of diversity in the paddock. It’s gotten a lot better in the last five years or so – much, much better – but it’s still a long way off Path.”
And Black fans? Rowe is both surprised and delighted when a black kid shows up to say hello or ask for an autograph.
It happens, but it’s the exception. The smile is mutual.
“I’m trying not to make this a racist thing, but it’s a real thing,” said Rowe, an Atlanta native and recent graduate of Pace University in New York. “When you go anywhere, when you go to China and you don’t see Americans around, you feel alone. Yes, we’re all Americans and it’s ok, but that kind of culture that you get is lacking and sometimes viewers can see it. you feel it a little
“They definitely appreciate it when they see someone who looks like them because it makes them feel like they belong, they should be here and not just coming and going and being far away.”
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This needs to be repeated: Rowe is not complaining. He is not intimidated or particularly uncomfortable about being noticed in his sport because of his race. He really enjoys racing and being with his competitors.
He’s just pointing out the obvious.
When he’s under pressure to follow or inspire a path, Rowe is fine with it. Racing is all about dealing with pressure, and if he can’t take it in the development departments, how could he be expected to do so in IndyCar or any other high-level series?
Also, Rowe has a lot to do to drive fast, win races and stay in the series.
Rowe rode for Force Indy last season and gave the team its first win, but was left out when the team switched to Indy Lights with Francis as the rookie driver. Force Indy is owned by Rod Reid, whose NXG Youth Motorsports has brought the educational benefits of racing to thousands of students from underrepresented communities.
Rowe ended up with Oconomowoc-based Pabst Racing Services earlier this season, winning two of the first four USF2000 races and leading the championship, but was also out of budget.
Ultimately, Roger Penske stepped in to provide funding for Rowe to wrap up the season.
In addition to his business interests and ownership of racing teams, the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske started the Race for Equality and Change program to help support diversity and inclusivity throughout the industry.
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“I didn’t know if I was going to get to Indianapolis, and then at the last minute I understood that I was going to get there,” Rowe said. “And yet I was in Indianapolis and I didn’t know if I was going to get anywhere. Found out last minute that it was me.
“So, Roger Penske has been a huge help to my career and my future, just being behind the Race for Equality and Change and behind Force Indy, choosing me to lead the development of Force Indy and now supporting me externally… still helping me get through the ranks.”
For Rowe – who is second on points in the Road America doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday – the uncertainty of his season is an example of racing’s business model being fractured at the grassroots and pay-to-play development level .
Nobody goes without access to thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
“They have to find a way to get sponsorship for the teams so the teams get the money so they can hire the riders and the teams can choose who has talent and not who has the most money,” Rowe said . “…It allows the teams to choose riders who can come and show their talent just like in any other sport.”
Rowe hopes to follow his racing dreams but is also a realist. He was out of the sport for four years before coming back via Force Indy last season and that could have been the end.
Luckily, Rowe has other passions, filmmaking being the biggest of them. That’s where he earned his college degree, and he’s worked with a company that does video and photo projects for clients in IndyCar and sports cars.
“I truly believe that your dreams will come true,” Rowe said. “Anything I’m passionate about, filmmaking, racing, I will give my all and make it happen with all my strength and effort that I can.”
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