Note: This feature story continues Penske Entertainment’s celebration of Black History Month, Feb. 1-March 1.
The 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone season is rapidly approaching, and for one rookie, the dream is close to becoming a reality.
Myles Rowe’s ambition is set on becoming an NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver. He knows he has a unique path to get there as an African American driver, but his approach, skills and demeanor have him one step away from the “big leagues” of major North American open-wheel racing.
“It gives me goosebumps thinking about it,” Rowe said. “Knowing I'm going to be in an INDY NXT car this season, especially with HMD Motorsports, is just a thrill. I'm just excited to capitalize on the opportunity.”
Rowe has earned more attention than most young drivers coming through the ranks, especially since Penske Entertainment started its Race for Equality & Change in July 2020 to provide more opportunity in the sport for minorities and women. He embraces that spotlight and its rewards and responsibilities.
George Mack was the last full-time African American driver in the INDYCAR SERIES, in 2002. Rowe’s desire and path to become the next is rooted in a team – Force Indy.
The team was created in the wake of the establishment of the Race for Equality & Change, and Rowe drove for Force Indy in the 2021 USF2000 championship. He made history by becoming the first African American driver to win in the series, reaching victory lane at New Jersey Motorsports Park in the 15th race of the season.
Rowe stayed in USF2000 in 2022 with Pabst Racing while Force Indy climbed to INDY NXT by Firestone. He started the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, winning the second race of the doubleheader. Then he won one of the doubleheader races at the next event, at Barber Motorsports Park, and his season was in high gear despite limited funding at the start of the season.
That success propelled Rowe into the Month of May, when he received funding to finish the season. He ended the 2022 season with five victories, finishing second in the championship, just six points behind Michael d’Orlando.
He climbed to USF Pro 2000 with Pabst Racing and renewed support from Force Indy. Rowe thrived. Another five-win season helped him secure the championship, becoming the first African American driver to win a North American open-wheel championship.
That came with a financial career advancement package for INDY NXT by Firestone, where Rowe and Force Indy partner with HMD Motorsports in a full-circle moment.
With this move comes responsibility. Rowe knows he is among the rare Black drivers in motorsport, joining athletes such as Lewis Hamilton in Formula One, Bubba Wallace in NASCAR and Antron Brown in NHRA. That role is something he’s not taking for granted, as he looks forward to the opportunity to represent the African American community and be a role model.
“It's very honorable,” he said. “I feel very privileged because a lot of people, of course, want to be in my shoes. I just want to capitalize on the opportunity as much as I can and represent the way I should.”
Rowe, 23, a Pace University graduate in film and screen studies who lives in Brooklyn, is wise and skilled beyond his years. He credits his parents and his upbringing, as they instilled certain levels of discipline, respect and learning.
“Really learning how to really hustle,” Rowe said. “All my family, they're hustlers. It’s the way we like to live. We can't really sit still necessarily.
“It’s one reason why I live in New York City. I love to hustle, and I love to grind, and it's just something that keeps me going. Honestly, it’s a corny phrase, but I love to go fast. On the track and off. It’s just something I have in me. I always want to progress.”
Progress toward more opportunity in motorsport is something Penske Entertainment wants, too. Rowe is a shining light that when given the opportunity, great things can happen.
“I always tell any kids that I talk to that perseverance is an attribute you need,” he said. “It’s kind of depressing to say, but I say that because of how hard it is and how long you have to really hold up mental strength to make it to even just to start. That's just the industry, and that's a lot of industries.
“But I think, especially with all the different things happening today, the younger generation has such a short attention span. I don't want anyone to be discouraged with how long it takes to actually get to where they want to be, so I always tell people that perseverance is what you need to keep in mind. That's the most important thing.”