While the IZOD IndyCar Series was ramping up for the season this week at Barber Motorsports Park, the Mazda Road to Indy wasn’t idle, either. A very robust Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship field is part of the 12 Hours of Sebring festivities, and one of the entrants making noise early is Andretti Autosport’s Garret Grist.
The 17 year-old Grist comes from a background in karting and F1600. Last year, paired with Bryan Herta Autosport, the young Canadian racer managed three podiums and seven Top 10s during the F1600 Formula F campaign. He also was a recipient of the prestigious Team Canada Racing scholarship. He’ll be plenty of busy with on-track action this year, but the INDYCAR hopeful had sometime in between practice sessions to answer some questions for INDYCAR Nation:
Garett, thanks very much for your time. You’re coming from F1600 Formula F, and will be running the full USF2000 slate with Andretti this year. For the layperson, what are the biggest differences between the two series and cars?
GG: The F1600 doesn't have wings and is only 1600cc versus the USF2000 car that has wings, front and back and also a diffuser under the back plus a 2000cc engine. Add on bigger tires and you get a much quicker car. I ran a Van Diemen chassis in my first year of F1600 so I know the car well. It's a great package they run in the USF program.
What’s your experience with the Andretti crew so far this year?
GG: My mechanic Fran is amazing and so meticulous. I really enjoy working with my engineer Ian – we really communicate well. The whole group is really well organized and everyone knows their job. To see them all work together you understand why people call this a team sport.
You’re a Team Canada Scholarship winner, something many race fans have probably seen mentioned in passing, but might not be too familiar with. What does winning a Team Canada scholarship involve, what’s the competition, and what does a mean for an up-and-coming racer to do so?
GG: The Team Canada Scholarship is an amazing program put together by some incredible supporters of racing, specifically the folks at Grote. Like the Team USA Scholarship it’s a chance for a driver to be selected to head over to England and race against some of the best F16000 drivers in the world at some very cool tracks. The competition is fantastic and you get a chance to see how drivers and series race in other countries. I think the best part is getting to represent your country. It's a real honour to carry the Maple Leaf on your car.