Meet the Indy Lights contenders: RC Enerson
RC Enerson of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/ Curb-Agajanian is one of four drivers in contention for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship title heading into the double-header series finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 11-13.
The champion is awarded a $1 million scholarship toward the Verizon IndyCar Series with three guaranteed races, including the historic 100th Indianapolis 500, in 2016.
PALMETTO, Fla. - RC Enerson’s 2015 plan was quite simple: join seven-time Indy Lights champions Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian and learn, learn, learn. Instead, the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda vice champion has made his presence felt in the title chase at 36 points behind leader and teammate Jack Harvey. Enerson has 10 top-five finishes, five podiums, a victory – and an unfazed reaction to a “massive crash” in Toronto that belied his 18 years.
Enerson, a native of New Port Richey, Fla., began racing karts at the tender age of 5. As the son of two former Hoosiers, racing came naturally to Enerson, who competed in club races on weekends with a few grand nationals and local winter tours thrown in. But the racing bug bit in earnest at age 14 with his first taste of a race car.
“I did the three-day Skip Barber School at Sebring,” said Enerson, “and I did pretty well. That was a turnaround for me. It made me think that I’d like to try to pursue this long-term, to see what I could do with it. Then I tested a USF2000 car and thought it was so much fun to drive. And with the Mazda Road to Indy being a direct path to IndyCar, I got sucked right in!”
Enerson finished third in the 2012 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda National Class. Moving up to the Championship Class in 2013, he finished second last season, earning five victories and ending the season only nine points back. Looking at his options for this year, Enerson felt the opportunity provided by the new Dallara IL-15 was too good to miss, and he skipped the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder altogether.
“The new Indy Lights car leveled out the playing field this year. Nobody had an advantage. So the timing made sense for me to go straight into Indy Lights. Plus, I went into this year knowing that the bar wasn’t set very high for us, as far as the expectations of what my results would be. But I picked up on it pretty quickly, though it definitely helped having Jack Harvey as a teammate! To come away with my first win and to be a contender in the championship is a big deal.”
Enerson enjoyed a solid first half of the season, earning two podiums and five top-five finishes. But it was his poise in the face of a huge incident in Toronto - replayed on nightly newscasts around the world and earning nearly 180,000 YouTube views to date - that brought him to the notice of the entire motorsports community.
“We’ve had podiums, top-fives, a pole, a win - and a massive crash. That definitely wasn’t part of the plan. But the whole thing gave me the confidence to push harder. Since the crash, I haven’t been out of the top five. I’ve been able to find the limits of the car and find the right setups with my engineer. For some reason, everything has been better, almost easier, since the crash.”
Enerson has a unique perspective on the championship because of his age and his experience level. Even if he were to win the title, he plans to return to the Indy Lights series for several years to come. As Enerson says, it’s a learning thing.
“I definitely need another year of Indy Lights. Even if I won the championship, I would want to figure out a way to stay here, because I need to learn so much more. I’m still pretty young – I could spend three years in this car and I’d only be 21 years old. I have the right team behind me and the right feedback coming toward me. As fast as I’ve been learning, and given my age, I’d like to learn and get more experience before making that big step up.”
As attention turns toward the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Enerson is buoyed by the fact that he is one of a select few drivers with actual race experience on the iconic 2.238-mile road course. Like so many drivers, Enerson’s word-association with Mazda Raceway most likely begins with the word “fog.”
“In the morning, it can be super foggy, like can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face foggy. And the afternoons can get really hot. So it’s a challenge. The second USF2000 race in 2013 was early in the morning and it was really foggy. We went out when it started to clear in the pit lane, but the Corkscrew is so much higher, it was really wet up there. It took a few laps to figure it out. But I’m looking forward to getting back there – just to drive on that track is amazing.”
Additional background information on Enerson as well as a full schedule for the season finale weekend can be found at www.indylights.com.