16-year-old racing driver Tristan Nunez has been nominated for the 2012 Team USA scholarship.
Nunez, driving—and leading—in his first complete season in the IMSA Cooper Tires Prototypes Lites series, is one of 14 young race drivers chosen as finalists for the Scholarship.
“I am honored to be chosen as a candidate for the Team USA Scholarship,” said Nunez in a press statement. “Some of the greatest American drivers have been a part of the Team USA Scholarship program and it’s really cool to be nominated with such a diverse group of drivers.”
Nunez earned the attention of the Team USA by winning six races (so far) in Prototypes Lites, while capturing seven poles and setting several track records. He is the youngest driver to win a Prototypes Lites race, and seems destined to be the 2012 champion.
The Team USA scholarship was created in 1990 by racing journalist and broadcaster Jeremy Shaw when he saw that talented American drivers had a hard time finding financing to advance their careers. Previous recipients include IndyCar drivers Joesph Newgarden, JR Hildebrand, and Charlie Kimball, Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, American Le Mans Series GT champ Joey Hand, and Grand Am Rolex GT champ Andy Lally.
“I have the utmost respect for Jeremy [Shaw] and his organization for developing this opportunity for young drivers like me,” Nunez said. “Jeremy has been a great mentor for many years and even introduced me to Safe is Fast, which has helped me throughout my career. This is going to be a wonderful learning experience for me and I appreciate the support of Jeremy, his team and the sponsor’s of the scholarship.”
Three winners will be chosen from the 14 candidates. Two will receive fully-funded rides at the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on October 27-28 and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone on November 3-4. One more experienced driver will be invited to contest the final two rounds of the Formula Renault BARC Championship at Silverstone on October 6-7.
European exposure can really boost an American driver’s career by introducing that driver to a wealth of teams and sponsors. Even if Nunez wins and races across the Atlantic, he has a great future with his current team, Performance Tech Motorsports, which runs a team in the American Le Mans Series where Nunez could drive as soon as next season.
More Than Just a Fast Driver
Nunez is more than just a very successful young racer. He uses his car and his talents to promote the Dnt txt n DrV teen driving safety program, contacting teens through safety events and Facebook to tell them about the dangers of distracted driving.
The Florida teen recently spent three weeks in Fiji, working with local teens on public improvement projects, building septic tanks, maintaining public buildings, and teaching in local schools. Nunez dressed and lived like the Fijians, wearing the traditional sarong, bathing in cold water and sleeping under a mosquito net.
The trip was organized by the Rustic Pathways organization, to give teens a chance to learn about other cultures and help out in developing nations. Nunez was deeply affected by both the poverty and the happiness of the Fijians.
“My community service trip to Fiji was the most amazing and memorable experience I have ever had. The people are so friendly and are always smiling. Even though they don’t have nearly as much as what we have here, they seem to be a happier people in general.
“I can’t explain how rewarding this trip was to me. I left that Island with such a sense of gratification for what I gave to them and what they gave to me. They taught me to disconnect from the modern world of electronics and social media and to enjoy the simple things in life, and especially to cherish your family, friends and community.”