Michai Stephens: Recognition
Updated: Feb 8
EVANSTON, Ill. – Over the past few months, the appropriate definition of being successful has haunted me. Typically in the racing community one can define success by setting a fastest lap or winning a race and/or a championship. But where do you find the encouragement when the results aren’t there to back it up? After a mediocre (in terms of results) yet very informative year with RJB Motorsports and missing the final round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, I learned to find success in places I had never looked before.
The ebb and flow of any racing driver’s career can have a titanic affect on their psyche. Having had the privilege and honor of benefiting from a quick rise into the world of open-wheel racing, time and its lessons are continuing to help define me as a growing athlete in the sport. I have begun to ask myself, what will I allow define me? Will it be the wins, losses, fast laps, crashes, or time spent teaching, thus making an impact and leaving a legacy? My answer – all the above.
Austin Riley’s pocket rocket.
Thankfully, my life has remained both busy and full of new experiences in recent weeks. With the help of the Skip Barber Racing School, I instructed a two-day advanced racing school at the National Corvette Museum, where, by chance, I came across a young man by the name of Austin Riley. Austin is a three-time karting champion who happens to be autistic. He continues to show that he cannot be defined by autism, but that it’s just a part of his life. The two of us bonded together as I helped him become acclimated to an H-pattern gearbox and heel-and-toe downshifting. When it was all said and done, Austin shared his gratitude by letting me give his insane go-kart a spin in the parking lot. Having never sat in, nor even seen a kart of this magnitude, I was beyond honored to happily skip across the ground.
Working with the kids is SO much fun!
From there it was off to St. Louis and Indiana for some work as an instructor with Xtreme Experience, which provides people an opportunity to drive some incredible supercars. I then shot to the complete other end of the spectrum to have some fun with the kids of Nexgeneracers in their karts on a parking lot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wow. Just wow!
Another shift of gears followed as I paid a visit to my good friend Anthony and his family, which led to yet another experience of a lifetime. Anthony had kindly arranged for me to actually pilot a T-34 Mentor owned by Ed Adib, a incredibly generous man – thank you! It was originally used as a military trainer in the ‘50s for the Navy and Air Force. Having had the fortune to experience the sensations of an open-wheel racing car, I never once imagined I would one day fly a freaking plane! Well, before I knew it, I was wheels up and climbing to 14,000 feet…. To willfully live within the clouds and take to your own path was one of my most liberating experiences to date – I finally touched the sky! : )
Performance Tech’s IMSA PC car.
Returning home only meant it was time to leave once again. With the help of Brent O’Neill, Kyle Masson and the whole of the Performance Tech Motorsports team, I made my way down to Road Atlanta for the 19th running of the famed Petit Le Mans sports car race. I reconnected with various personalities in the sport, including the newly crowned Team USA kids Kyle Kirkwood and Oliver Askew whom I had met during the interview process at Mid-Ohio, and continued my learning from Performance Tech. Unfortunately, I would have to leave the night before the race kicked off, but the trip to the airport was one to remember with the help of Robbie Converse and her son Keith. Funny thing is, Robbie was the first person I ever spoke to when I decided to step into motorsports. With her help, I was signed up for my first Three Day Racing school at Skip Barber which has brought me to where I stand today, sharing with you!
Now I know why the Capes win so much in USF2000!
My final acts of the month once again took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was hosting its seasonal Chris Griffis Memorial test. I originally planned on gathering information from the paddock while sharing the growing world with my friends, supporters and co workers Nickolas Williams and Devin Kennedy, plus NXG founder Mr. Rod Reid. Luck would then have it that I’d be able to drive one of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s now “older USF2000 Van Diemen chassis. This was a very special chance to get a feeling for what we were up against all year. In the course of seven hours, many of my questions were answered. Closing out the day became bittersweet as I wasn’t happy with the times I had posted but had a clear understanding for what I was doing both right and wrong behind the wheel. So thank you, Dominic and Nicholas Cape, for making that opportunity possible.
As always, I would like to thank everyone involved in my life and those behind the scenes as well for joining in on the fun. This journey continually blows me away by its nuances within the many layers of success. With every defeat, I feel as if I am one step closer to fulfilling the target I originally set forth. I will continue to use both the physical and emotional guidance taken from every experience I come across!
Bring on the next one,