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Myles Rowe clinches USF Pro 2000 championship


#99 Myles Rowe, Pabst Racing w/Force Indy, Penske Entertainment,

Myles Rowe does a news conference after clinching the USF Pro 2000 championship (Gavin Baker/Gavin Baker Photography).

Myles Rowe won the USF Pro 2000 championship, becoming the first African-American driver to win a major open-wheel title in the United States.

The Pabst Racing with Force Indy driver clinched the crown with a third-place at Portland International Raceway, where Michael d’Orlando led from flag to flag. Rowe earned the Discount Tire Driver Development Scholarship of $664,500 that ensures he will have a 2024 ride in the Indy NXT series, one rung below the NTT IndyCar Series.

The USF Pro 2000 season finale will take place at 6:15 p.m. ET with Rowe carrying a 57-point lead (380-323) over Kiko Porto. Rowe rebounded from a heartbreaking second-place finish in the USF2000 championship last year, moving up into USF Pro 2000 as Ernie France Jr. was promoted to Indy NXT.

Rowe and Francis are part of the Force Indy program that was formed in 2020 as part of IndyCar’s Race for Equality and Change in a technical support alliance with Team Penske. African-American team owner Rod Reid put an emphasis on hiring Black American men and women in all departments of the team.

Rowe became the first Black driver to win in USF2000 with Force Indy during the team’s inaugural 2021 season

“All of these competitors are so tough,” Rowe said in a USF Pro 2000 release. “We knew after last year and finishing second in the (USF2000) championship, especially being so close to taking it, that we had to start off strong. That’s exactly what we did. We put in the work, we persevered and we came through.

“It is all thanks to everyone that supports me, everyone that is out here watching and pushing me, on down to my family – my mom and my dad for putting in the blood, sweat and tears – Roger Penske and Penske Entertainment, Force Indy, Pabst Racing and Augie Pabst, Sparco, Bell Helmets, NXG and all of the crew. It wouldn’t be possible without them. They have really pushed me along and really given me such extraordinary support.”

Rowe had entered the final race weekend last year with a 23-point championship lead but came up short after a tumultuous season in which he had to scramble to secure funding after being replaced by Francis in Force Indy’s primary ride for 2022.

“I am just at a loss for words,” Rowe said. “It feels almost like it has been a two-year championship from trying to bounce back after last year.

“It took a mental strain on us all but I am just so happy to deliver this for the team. I am thrilled that we are able to enjoy it finally.”

Two-time IndyCar champion Will Power has been one of Rowe’s biggest supporters since spotting him as a rookie in go-karts. Power lobbied Roger Penske to put Rowe in the Force Indy ride two years ago, and Power and his wife, Liz, have helped guide his development.

“Yeah, I still have a lot to do with his career,” Power said of Rowe in July. “He’s just killing it. Very happy, impressed, and expect him to be in Indy (NXT) next year. If he did what he did this year, he’d be in IndyCar in ’25. That’s the plan. Yeah, he’s doing the business. That’s the main thing. Very, very excited to see it.”