Michai Stephens: Life – in the Fast Lane
Updated: Feb 8
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Hello everyone,
Round two of the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda is just hours away. Yippee!
Clawing our way through the GP of St. Pete for the first races of the Mazda Road to Indy season served the RJB Motorsports team and me quite well! Our continued unification and understanding of the pressing objectives has risen and will continue to grow. Now everyone on the team is excited to return to an already familiar place at Barber Motorsports Park. Hopes remain high across the board!
Family time has been at a premium lately, but the sizable break in the schedule helped make up for lost time. Having shared a room with my younger brothers our entire lives, the distant times have only exaggerated how far we have all come. Having the three of us back together again was very special. Sachi, 20 years old and the middle child of the family, has a colorful and progressive life away at college, while Tayis,17 years old and the youngest, continues striving through his final days in high school. Sharing our life adventures and experiences has become a cherished must-do. Needless to say, I learn as much from them as they do from me – love you guys! “Big bro!”
As the days progressed following my USF2000 debut with the RJB team at St. Petersburg, a neat opportunity landed in my lap. Thanks to Cal DeNyse from Xtreme Experience, Scott Friedland from IOM Cases and the AT&T flagship store on Michigan Ave in Chicago, I found myself posed alongside a McLaren, Ferrari and Lamborghini smack in the middle of my home city!! The premise of this gathering was to help promote the launch of his new IOM iPhone case, inspired by the artistry of modern day supercars. Just imagine what kind of attention we caught : )
The following week I shifted my base to Indianapolis, Ind. I started by connecting with Kelly Jones from RaceCraft1 Motorsports and blasted collectively into the future. Settling into his familiar hand-crafted simulator cockpits meant it was time to get to work! Throughout the week I also visited with various people and prepared for the upcoming race weekend in Alabama. My final two days in Indy were spent with Rod Reid, the founder of Nexgeneracers, an incredible Youth Karting program operating out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the first weekend for our new and improved GP1 and GP2 kids who were all looking to kick off the season the right way. Well, the cold weather couldn’t hold them back as first time winners and believers surged forward.
Next, after a brief return home, came another wonderful opportunity, thanks to the Valtierra family. We collectively ran from the nasty cold of Chicago and Madison, Wis., respectively, to the sunny shores of Long Beach, Calif. The 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach awaited us in all its glory and we were ready to soak it up! The weekend was filled with all the sights and sounds you could ever want in a single weekend. While running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I ran into many familiar faces and a few new ones as well! Saturday evening was particularly special as the 24th annual RACER Magazine party kept the spirits and the future of this sport and my dream alive!!
L. to R.: Doug Mockett, Michai, Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico
Suddenly, it was Sunday afternoon and race day for Round Three of the Verizon IndyCar Series! With the cars taking to the false grid, people flooded the pits like working ants on a charge. A bubbling environment to say the least was waiting to explode as the spirits of our national anthem echoed across the sea of people. As the command was given for drivers to start their engines, it was time to find a cozy viewing spot. Thanks to long-time Team USA Scholarship supporter Doug Mockett, I was suite-approved and smile-applied! The view was incredible, and familiar faces and former Team USA nominees made it all the better.
Enjoying the action came easy and was an absolute pleasure to experience it in such a way! Having mingled with some of Doug’s AWESOME staff, the real pleasure came while spending some quality time with the man himself . . . They were moments to remember.
Having filled our bellies with all the goodness California could offer and raised spirits for the coming weekend, the Valtierras and I packed up after the race and shipped out Monday morning. It is now Wednesday, and with an early wakeup call set for a bright and early departure to Birmingham, Ala., it is time to sign off and catch you later. Bring on Round Two and the lessons it will surely bring.
Ready – set – GO!!
My deepest thanks to everyone in this sport and my supporting cast. It wouldn’t be the same without you : )