By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
It isn’t often that a Louisiana native makes waves in the motorsport world, but that’s exactly what one teenager from Sulphur has done.
Aaron Jeansonne (left in above photo), 19, was announced by Team USA Scholarship as one of two representatives for the United States at the Formula Ford Festival that starts today at Brands Hatch and also for the Walter Hayes Trophy Race at Silverstone in November.
He is joined by Jonathan Kotyk from Atlantic Beach, Florida.
Jeansonne will follow in the footsteps of IndyCar champions Jimmy Vasser and Josef Newgarden, Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and Indianapolis 500-winning car owner Bryan Herta in representing the U.S. around the world as a Team USA Scholarship alumnus and is the first Louisiana native to have this honor.
Jeansonne’s introduction to racing began with dirt oval karting back when he was 16-17 years old and he recently got into road racing with the Lucas Oil School of Racing.
“I was looking at a lot of different possibilities to break into the racing world,” said Jeansonne. “I even one time searched ‘How to get into racing for cheap’ and I stumbled upon the Lucas Oil School of Racing from someone that I looked up to in the racing world.”
Jeansonne’s first time in a racing car would be at the Skip Barber racing school in October 2016 at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park. Soon after he would race with the Lucas Oil School of Racing at NOLA Motorsports Park, scoring his first victory in only his second car race and that’s where his first big break occurred.
“A man that was there by the name of Jonatan Jorge with Jonatan Jorge Racing Development noticed me and asked me if I had heard of Team USA Scholarship,” Jeansonne said. “I said ‘yes,’ of course. That’s a huge goal of mine to do some day and ever since then I’ve contacted Jeremy Shaw (founder of Team USA Scholarship) and lots of other people just trying to get involved with the program and someone took a chance and they invited me to the interviews and they liked me and I guess I got lucky after that.”
The 19-year-old was then selected by Team USA Scholarship for a round of interviews at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in front of a panel of open wheel racing team owners, drivers, and other motorsports directors. Jeansonne passed through the interview process and was one of six drivers selected to participate in a shootout at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan.
“The shootout was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be,” said Jeansonne. “The competition was very high, the track was a very tough track to drive, but I put together the best performance that I could possibly put together and the judges liked it just enough to pick me for the scholarship. So overall I can’t complain about that.”
After the shootout, it wasn’t long until Jeansonne found out he was selected to go to England.
“Jeremy Shaw had told me to give him a call one day pretty recently and I was super nervous whenever he told me that,” Jeansonne said. “I gave him a call and the first thing that he asked me was ‘Do I fancy a trip to England?’ and I believe my heart dropped. I asked him if he was joking or not.”
His family’s reaction was about what one would expect.
“They’re shocked right now because a year ago when I mentioned Team USA to them they thought I was absolutely insane,” Jeansonne said.
Since starting this motorsports journey, the hardest part has been finding the funding to continue. Jeansonne was laid off from his job working on military aircraft at Northrop Grumman and the job he has now doesn’t pay as much.
“The most difficult part has definitely been the financial aspect of it,” said Jeansonne. “I don’t come from a wealthy background and I’ve had to pick and claw to get to where I’m at. I’ve been lucky that there have been a lot of generous people that have helped me along the way.”
“I was able to work with my dad to help pay for my racing and recently I was laid off […] and the job that I have now makes much less money so it’s been very difficult to keep up paying to keep going.”
His family couldn’t afford to go see him compete in England, but for those that want to see Jeansonne compete will have a chance to at NOLA Motorsports Park on November 11-12th in the final round of the 2017 Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Race Series.