By: Tanner Watkins
December 8, 2018 | 11:37 AM
Finding a place in the cutthroat world of open-wheel auto racing is a difficult task. With the various race series available to young and developing drivers, it can be difficult to carve a path that will fit a certain driver’s career arc best.
Even when a racer outlines his or her desired series, the struggles of securing funding and partners always appears in modern-day motor racing. Thankfully for Michael Eastwell, he knows where he wants to go, and he is quite the negotiator.
Eastwell’s journey begins in the U.K. where he started racing karts in 2009. As he explains the early beginnings, Eastwell notes that it took at least a year to convince his father to let him race just once a month at a local track. Eventually the races came twice a month, then three times a month. In due time, Eastwell would end up in the SuperOne British National Series karting championship.
After competing for two years in SuperOne, Eastwell was asked to help develop a karting chassis in Europe. That opportunity led him to the United States in 2016 where he would eventually capture the Formula Tag class in the F-Series. Admittedly, the Southampton native had come a long way since begging his father to race karts, and they couldn’t turn back now.
“By this point, I had come so far,” says Eastwell. “We (decided to) put everything into car racing.”
For the last two seasons, Eastwell competed in Formula Ford’s British National Championship. This past year he finished second in the championship while also competing in the Champion of Brands Formula Ford 1600 SuperSeries.
Today, Eastwell will compete in the Road to Indy $200,000 Scholarship Shootout, an event that grants one driver a full-ride scholarship to the following USF2000 season. USF2000 is the first rung on the Road to Indy ladder, culminating in Indy Lights before reaching the IndyCar Series.
Eastwell is one of 20 drivers on-hand at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona by virtue of his title won in the Formula Ford 1600 SuperSeries. As part of his trip to the states to compete in the Road to Indy Shootout, Eastwell enjoyed watching Road to Indy teams test at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this week. It has re-ignited his desire to race in USF2000 next season and begin a career towards IndyCar.
“I am fully committed to being in USF2000 next season,” Eastwell proclaims. “I’m doing everything in my power to make it a reality.
“(Homestead testing) was my first time seeing the cars up
When queried on his chances during this weekend’s competition, Eastwell is realistic but also optimistic in providing an analysis.
“There (are) some
“The judges are looking for an all-round driver – as they should be – (and) I believe I can tick all the boxes, so I’ll just have to wait and see. However I would just say, having met a good number of the drivers earlier (this week), they are all really down to earth people who like myself want to live the dream, race, and make it their full-time career.
“I can honestly say, whoever wins, I would be extremely happy for them.”
At 22 years of age, Eastwell has his sights dialed in on the Road to Indy, and eventually, IndyCar. While not rare, it is uncommon to see a European driving prospect aiming for American open-wheel racing and not the ranks leading up to Formula One. That ambition, in part, has been developed by a role model Eastwell follows.
“My ultimate ambition is to work my way up the Road to Indy ladder and be a champion in IndyCar,” exclaims Eastwell. “This is where I want to be within the next four years. I think it’s an incredibly pure form of motorsport. There are so many great characters in the series, but my inspiration is Scott Dixon. I think he’s an incredible guy in and out of the car.
“Maybe I’ll get to say ‘hi’ in the paddock next season. Who knows?”
As the Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout is concerned, Eastwell won’t have long to wait before learning his fate. The event is currently underway in the Arizona desert, and a champion will be crowned Sunday evening.
If Eastwell has it his way, this will be his first step into the Road to Indy and a hopeful IndyCar Series career. Will he win the Shootout? It is tough to tell, but we know one thing: this U.K. native can be quite persuasive, so don’t be surprised if we see Eastwell on the USF2000 grid very soon.
Header image by Finish Line Sports.