Enaam Ahmed has every intention of being a force throughout the 2023 season in INDY NXT by Firestone.
The British-Pakistani driver understands the challenge ahead as a rookie driver with a 2023 rookie team in Cape Motorsports, which returns to the series for the first time since 2010. However, Ahmed is using those challenges as motivation beginning with this weekend’s season-opening round on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Cape Motorsports works very well,” said Ahmed, 23. “They understand what I need from a car, balance-wise, to go better. We are a rookie team with rookie drivers (including teammate Jagger Jones). We're quite an aggressive team. I'm an aggressive driver. We take chances. We have nothing to lose. And when someone has nothing to lose, he's a dangerous man.”
While each track has its own uniqueness that separates it from one another, the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit at St. Petersburg is the one that excites him the most and a perfect place to start his championship quest.
“The first race, actually - St. Pete - because I like street circuits,” he said. “Every track in America has its challenge and its own excitement. They're all very exciting, to be honest. But my job and what I'm looking forward to is driving the hell out of this car and delivering the best result I can, not holding back at all.”
As far as his expectations, Ahmed didn’t mince words.
“I'm not a coward; I have the balls to say I'm here to prove I'm the best driver on the grid,” Ahmed said. “Simple as that. I’m here to be a champion.”
The combination of driver and team already appear poised to be a problem for the rest of the field after leading offseason testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s road course in January.
While Ahmed may come off as brash, it is only because of his relentless effort to get to this moment. A world champion in karting, he also captured the British F3 title in 2017 with a staggering 13 wins – breaking Ayrton Senna’s record of 12 that stood since 1983.
Ahmed first came to the United States in 2021 for a partial campaign in the USF Pro 2000 Championship, which led to a full-time opportunity last year with Juncos Hollinger Racing that ended with five podiums and third place in the standings. During that time, he was also grinding with side jobs to make extra income to cover expenses.
“If you look at my junior career, I've won eight championships in my life,” Ahmed said. “I've become a world champion in go-karting, European champion in karting, British champion and a Formula 3 champion, as well. You could say I'm one of the most successful drivers of the 2010 era coming out of British motorsport.
“It's been very, very good, but I had to fight very hard to be there. I've always been a very hungry driver because I've had a lot of pressure in my career, which I like. I've had to perform. And I took two, three years out of racing, which is why I came back to America last year. It was a fresh start. Building back on, now I've got a chance to do INDY NXT.
“I really see America right now as growing, and I like the way American people are in racing. They don't care where you come from or what you look like if you're good, they give you opportunity and a chance, which I think is phenomenal. The way I've been able to pick up sponsors from the U.S. Is phenomenal. They don't care where I'm from or anything. If you're good, they support you. I respect Americans a lot. I've never seen that anywhere else.”
Ahmed is also paying it forward for the next generation of aspiring drivers in the Middle East with a karting team that will have 15 cars and compete regionally across the Gulf countries: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“I'm now part of a karting team in Dubai,” he said. “It's going to be rebranded in August for the next season. So, it's going to be totally rebranded and then it'll be me and another two people that'll be our team. Trying to encourage the next talented drivers to come up through the Middle East and South Asia to then now I'm building my reputation here in the U.S. and then bring them here to INDYCAR.”
Overall, Ahmed fully understands and embraces his position as a role model for his fellow countrymen.
“It's because I never got that opportunity myself,” he said. “No one ever really supported me. I had to fight like hell for 15 years to get to this place now. So, all the experience, all the lessons that I've learned, I want to find very good few drivers from where I come from, my home countries as in my origin countries like Pakistan, Middle East, all these places.
“I want to guide them through their career to get to the top and no one else is going to do that except me. That's why I'm passionate because it's so hard.”