There are many paths around the world that lead to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and up-and-coming driver Simon Sikes is using this weekend’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take him to the top of open-wheel racing.
Sikes is competing this weekend in Formula F and Formula Continental and hoping to earn his second consecutive Runoffs victory in Formula F.
“Honestly, we feel pretty good about this weekend, having done a couple test days,” Sikes said. “I’m pretty comfortable so far in Formula F and looking a lot better than Formula Continental. It seems like we really have something. Last year was kind of a last-minute effort to get everything together, but this year we’re really doing it right and putting all the effort into it.”
The 2021 season has been more than SCCA for Sikes. With an eventual goal of reaching the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he has dipped his toes in USF2000 this season as he eyes a full-time run in the series in 2022.
He has run nearly half the season in 2021, which will not include this weekend’s USF2000 finale at Mid-Ohio as it conflicts with the SCCA Runoffs. After a challenging start to the year, Sikes has proven to be a talented driver in the first rung of the Road to Indy ladder system.
Sikes has finished on the podium four times this season, with a best finish of second at Road America-2 and Mid-Ohio-3. He also finished third in the first two Mid-Ohio races of the tripleheader weekend. He also raced in May at IMS in the USF2000 tripleheader during the GMR Grand Prix weekend.
He said when he scored his first top 10 of the season at Road America, seventh, it was a turning point for himself and his race team, which featured new engineers and new setups that weekend. From there, Sikes was able to start proving his worth in USF2000.
“We knew we should be up there fighting for wins, but it was a disappointing start to the season,” Sikes said. “We were able to turn that around and get the momentum rolling. Definitely the comfort and experience has helped.”
Sikes, a 20-year-old business major at Augusta University, was hoping to run a full campaign this season, but a lack of funding prevented that. Sikes is learning the financial importance of the industry at a young age, and he hopes that will help him many years down the road. It’s a reason why he chose to study business, with the goal of understanding the marketing and sponsorship side of motorsports.
As he parlays his SCCA and USF2000 success into more opportunities, his goal is to spend one full-time season in each Road to Indy series – USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights – over the next three years.
Sikes does have virtual NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience through a race in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge last spring for Ed Carpenter Racing. With Conor Daly unable to compete in the virtual race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at Montreal, Sikes competed in Daly’s virtual No. 20 car and drove it to a 16th-place finish.
More importantly for Sikes, it was meaningful to drive for team owner and driver Ed Carpenter, whom he admires and is following his path of going to college for business and turning that into a racing career. Carpenter is a graduate of Butler University in Indianapolis.
“Just to be associated with a team like that is amazing,” Sikes said. “I’ve always been a fan of ECR. I met Josef Newgarden when I was in karting, and I followed his career when he was with ECR. I’ve always been a big fan of what Ed did as a driver and as an owner. It was an absolute privilege to be a part of that.”
But before he can turn his eyes toward 2022 and beyond, Sikes is looking to back up his Formula F title this weekend at the Racing Capital of the World.
The week-long event takes a toll on drivers and forces the best out of them as they compete for their respective class championship, but Sikes is making the most out it and multitasking. Georgia native Sikes has taken an exam and written an essay for class while at IMS, where he arrived last Saturday.
“This is only my third time racing at Indy, and for SCCA to be able to go here and do their events is awesome,” Sikes said. “To be able to come here for the Runoffs and have access to these iconic tracks is really a neat event. You get experience at some really cool places, and it’s usually somewhere you can take experience from and use it later in your career.”