Age is just a number, right? Kaylen Frederick is out putting that theory to the test.
At 14, Frederick is the youngest driver competing in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda. It is the first level of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, the three-rung open-wheel development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR. All three MRTI levels are conducting a test day today on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in advance of doubleheader race weekends in conjunction with the INDYCAR Grand Prix Verizon IndyCar Series race on Saturday.
Despite his youth, Frederick established himself as one to watch after posting second-place finishes in the USF2000 races at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 21-22. The native of Potomac, Maryland, sits second in the championship after four of 14 races.
Driving the No. 81 Pilot ONE Racing Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, Frederick also finished fourth and fifth in the season-opening races at St. Petersburg in March. At Barber, Frederick qualified second and finished there both times to Oliver Askew of Cape Motorsports. The margin of victory in the first race was a mere 0.2273 of a second.
“The team has definitely been working hard getting the car ready,” Frederick said. “We missed out a little bit on qualifying both days, so Oliver got ahead. I think we were really fast in the (first) race and we had the pace (in the second race), but I made a mistake and fell back.
“I was catching him for a bit there, but then I overdrove a bit and my rear tires were gone at the end.”
Frederick has a pair of teammates this season with Robert Megennis and Ayla Agren at Team Pelfrey. Megennis won the opening race at St. Pete, but it was Frederick leading the charge for the Dale Pelfrey-owned squad at Barber.
“Even though not all of us on the team are sweeping the podium, when I come to a track where both of them have been to, they really help me out in getting used to it,” said Frederick. “They give me good feedback and data to look onto. It all helps me to get up to speed quickly.”
Frederick began karting at age 7 and moved up to cars last year when he competed in the F1600 championship after reaching the minimum age restriction when he turned 14 in June. He still claimed one win and three second-place finishes en route to seventh in the overall standings. That propelled Frederick to make his USF2000 debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 2016 season finale weekend, where he drove to a pair of 13th-place finishes.
While older drivers can focus squarely on their racing endeavors between events, Frederick isn’t as fortunate. He still must deal with the rigors of being a ninth-grade student.
“I don’t have too much time to do anything besides school because I get back (home) and I have to make up two weeks’ worth of schoolwork sometimes,” he said. “I’m just working on that all the time and trying to fit in time to get some exercising in.”
There are 23 entries in USF2000 competition this weekend. Following testing and practice today, qualifying takes place at 7:55 a.m. ET Friday for the first race and 11:15 a.m. for the second race. Race 1 takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Race 2 starts at 10:05 a.m. Saturday. All sessions stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.