Myles Rowe, driving for the African American-owned Force Indy team, made history Sunday by becoming the first Black driver to win an INDYCAR-sanctioned race when he captured the second leg of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix tripleheader Sunday, Aug. 29 at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
The 21-year-old Pace University student from Atlanta produced a sensational performance in mixed conditions following an earlier rain shower for his first USF2000 victory and first win for the Indianapolis-based Force Indy team, which was formed in December 2020 as part of the Race for Equality & Change diversity initiative introduced in July 2020 by INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He took the lead in the No. 99 Force Indy car with just a few corners remaining in the 20-lap race after starting 10th.
“As I was coming to the finish, I had to radio my spotter (Jon Bouslog) and ask him, ‘Are we in the lead?’” Rowe said. “He told me, ‘Keep going, keep going!’ I knew I was in second, but looking at my first win, I just didn’t believe it. Once I took the checkered, my first thought was – I’m here.
“I can’t thank my parents so much for all the love, support and patience. Rod Reid, Jon (Bouslog), the whole team, Stu (Kelly), Derrick (Morris), Zach (Griggs) – I can’t thank them all enough. And of course, Roger Penske and Will Power. So many people who put me where I am, where Force Indy is today.”
Championship leader Kiko Porto finished second, with DEForce Racing teammate Nolan Siegel third.
Rowe, a protégé of 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power, continued to move up the order, relishing the slippery conditions. He was up to fifth place by the midpoint of the race, forcing Josh Green to adopt some defensive tactics to keep him in his mirrors. Race officials eventually instructed Green to cede the third position with four laps remaining.
An inspired Rowe continued his charge, quickly dispensing with Siegel and rapidly closing onto Porto’s tail. Finally, in Turn 9 on the final lap, Rowe saw his opportunity and pounced, taking the lead and a memorable maiden victory.
Rowe also took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award, his first of the season, while Force Indy team principal Rod Reid was presented with his first PFC Award as the winning car owner.
“Until you actually win one of these, you don’t know what you’re going to feel,” Reid said. “For us, the early part of that battle was reminiscent of St. Pete, when we were in fourth and going for third until we made a mistake. I was right there in Turn 8 and saw him battling for third and then for the lead, and I thought: ‘Can we do this? Is this real?’
“But this is why we do this; it’s a great feeling. The entire team did great – the crew in setting up the car, and Myles, managing tire wear. We’re so excited for everyone who worked so hard to be in this position.”
Porto won the first leg of the USF2000 tripleheader Saturday on his 18th birthday, while 16-year-old Siegel also earned his first career USF2000 win in the last race of the weekend tripleheader Sunday.
Reece Gold earned his first Indy Pro 2000 victory Saturday while Artem Petrov and Hunter McElrea captured Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 races, as the first two rungs on the Road to Indy ladder competed this weekend at the circuit in Millville, New Jersey.