Westin Workman had a whirlwind 2022 racing season, competing in karts, formula cars, and sports cars. The 18-year-old driver from Charlotte, N.C. gained valuable experience and showed great speed and consistency in his first full season of auto racing as he graduated from a successful karting career. We caught up with Westin to get his thoughts on his recently completed season.
Q: I think it’s fair to say that your 2022 season really started in late 2021, as you were invited to compete in both the Mazda Motorsports Spec MX-5 Challenge Shootout in October and the Lucas Oil Scholarship Shootout in December. Tell us about your experience at the Spec MX-5 Challenge Shootout first.
That’s right and I think the key to having a successful season was starting as early as possible and hopefully before the competition! I think my experience at the 2020 Mazda Motorsports Spec MX-5 Shootout gave me an advantage at the 2021 Shootout. Not being selected as a finalist in 2020 really motivated me during 2021 to improve on the things the judges had suggested. Being invited back gave me the opportunity to prove myself again. With experience in the car and an idea of what the judges were looking for in a driver made the shootout a great experience with an even better result. Receiving one of the two scholarships valued at $50,000 to compete in the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series during 2022 really set me up for a good year.
Q: And, how did the Lucas Oil Formula Car Shootout go for you?
Coincidentally, both of the shootouts I competed in were both held at Sebring International Raceway, but the Lucas Oil Formula Car Shootout was a slightly different experience than Spec MX-5. The Lucas Oil shootout was a larger scale with around 30 competitors. I had really just started to create my own brand and focus on the marketing side of motorsports and that was something that the judges were looking for with their grand prize recipient, so that kind of put me on the back foot. I placed fourth in the shootout and earned half a season in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Winter Series. The Winter Series visited Homestead-Miami Speedway and Sebring International Raceway for four races over two race weekends.
Q: Your Spec MX-5 Challenge season didn’t go exactly to plan, did it? What were some of the highs and lows and who were your major competitors?
My Spec MX-5 Challenge season did not showcase my abilities in the way I would have liked at all, but I think the struggles I faced and the experience I gained will help to build a successful career in racing. We faced many mechanical issues throughout the season due to the car being a new build and having never seen a track before. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to run a different, more competitive car in the final race of the season, the championship event at Circuit of the Americas. Unfortunately, the bad luck continued as the differential failed in qualifying leaving me with no lap time. I was able to drive my way from last on the grid (P17) all the way to a podium finish (P3), after penalties. It was a pleasure competing with my close friend Thomas Annunziata throughout the season as well as Nate Cicero, the other recipient of the 2021 Spec MX-5 Scholarship and Michael Borden, our coach for the year.
Q: You made kind of a late decision to run the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series, correct? What was behind that decision? Who were some of your main competitors in that series and how did it go for you overall?
The decision did come fairly late to run the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series. Just trying to make sure we were using our funds in the most effective way possible. We felt that the close racing the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series provides, along with the potential scholarship money, made it a good investment to stay in the seat, improve my race craft, and potentially climb the formula car ladder if I won the championship. It was a very close battle for the championship all year among the top 4; myself, Thomas Annunziata, Ayrton Houk, and Jack Jeffers. I ended up tied with Ayrton Houk for 3rd in the series, and I held the tiebreaker with more wins in the series.
Q: You were invited to compete in the Mazda Motorsports MX-5 Cup Shootout in November; tell us about your experience there.
I was an automatic nominee for the 2022 Mazda Motorsports MX-5 Cup Shootout because I was a recipient of the Spec MX-5 scholarship the year prior, but I was not an automatic finalist, so I was still put through all the same screening as everyone else; video, resume, racing background, etc. I was selected as one of the 12 finalists from the 32 nominees to compete at Carolina Motorsports Park. That was my first time ever behind the wheel of an MX-5 Cup Car but I was able to get up to pace quickly. Listening to all the feedback from the judges and trying to gain as much knowledge as possible from Mazda representatives when not in the car made this experience one that was not only fun, but very informative and beneficial to my racing career. Being one of the only drivers with no experience in the MX-5 Cup car, I lacked just a few tenths of pace in the final session which ended up being the deciding factor due to how tight the competition was on and off track. I’m definitely hoping to continue my relationship with Mazda going forward.
Q: And, just about a week later, you teamed up for the 8-hour World Racing League races at COTA in an MX-5 Cup car with your MX-5 Cup Shootout rivals, Nate Cicero, and Thomas Annunziata, plus the 2022 MX-5 Cup championship runner-up, Connor Zilisch. How was it going from rivals to teammates and how was your first endurance racing experience?
All of us combined to make for a pretty powerful young team. Even though Nate, Thomas, and I were rivals the week prior, we are friends that share the same passion and desire, and that brings us closer. It was also pretty cool that we had all been Mazda scholarship winners, whether past, present, or both. Our similar skill levels gave us a high average pace across all four drivers which was an advantage over other teams in the GP2 class. It was an awesome experience learning the importance of saving equipment, pits stops, driver changes, and many other things. Ultimately, we finished P2 on Saturday despite having refueling issues during pit stops and some other mechanical problems which kept us from racing on Sunday. I would love to compete in more endurance races again in 2023.
Q: Obviously, with your transition to cars you had to dial back your karting program, but you still kept pretty active. How did your kart racing season go?
Karting is always a great way for me to stay in the seat and perfect my craft. Fortunately, I am able to have one of the best karting facilities in the country, GoPro Motorplex, close to me. The Karting Challenge at GoPro is definitely one of the most completive club racing series in the country, with a lot of the same drivers you’d find at a national. The Karting Challenge consistently pulls in around 30 drivers in the KA100 Senior class which I compete in. Because some races conflicted with car races, I was not able to do the whole Karting Challenge series, but I won 5 of the 8 races I competed in out of the 12 total events in the series to finish 2nd in KA100 Senior. I also competed in several nationals at GoPro Motorplex with the most recent being the IAME Grand Nationals, where I placed P2 out of 50 drivers. Karting will always have a special place in my heart because of the purity of the driving and sport, plus the relatively low cost compared to other forms of motorsport. Karting really teaches you the fundamentals needed to transfer into race cars and be competitive. I plan to always have karting in my racing schedule.
Q: Having raced karts, formula cars, and sports cars this season, you obviously gained a lot of experience and had to be very versatile. How were you able to be successful in very different vehicles?
I think the key to my success this year in many different types of vehicles was my open mind and versatile abilities. The ability to adapt to different driving styles and understand different vehicle dynamics played a huge role. I am a senior in high school and plan on attending UNC Charlotte in the motorsports engineering program to further my knowledge of race cars and other things within motorsports.
Q: Overall, what were the highs and lows of your 2022 season and what did you learn that you will carry forward in your career?
I really wouldn’t consider anything in my season to be a “low” because you can always learn and grow from mistakes and losses, but I would say my biggest achievement in my 2022 season was becoming a factory driver for Mazda Motorsports in the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series. One of the things that taught me the most this year was the Spec MX-5 test event at Carolina Motorsports Park. Mazda invited some up and coming drivers to the event to try out the Spec MX-5 car and build interest in the series. I was hired as one of the coaches for the event and it was one of my first experiences with that responsibility. The thing I really like about coaching is that you’re not only teaching the client but you’re also also learning as a driver as well. Coaching is obviously how a lot of pro drivers are able to build their careers so any coaching opportunities that come up I plan to take advantage of to increase my abilities in that area.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to thank for their support this year?
I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without a lot of support. Some of my supporters are new this season and some are from previous years, but I would first like to thank my family and friends, especially my parents, who have continued to support me no matter what I’m doing. I’d also like to thank Mazda Motorsports for a great year in Spec MX-5 and for many other opportunities, and Advanced Autosports for prepping and running my race car, and the hospitality throughout the Spec MX-5 season. The judges at the shootouts I competed in deserve a ton of thanks for their advice and guidance. Thanks to PitFit for keeping me in shape and always physically ready to get in any race car and thanks to Sparco USA for helping me with top quality racing gear. On the business side of things, many thanks to Bingo-Bango Soda for their partnership, to RedLine Ace and Styled Aesthetic for helping me build my brand and get it out to the public, and to Bonner Race Marketing for helping me with networking, building partnerships, and career guidance.
Q: Finally, what are your plans for 2023?
My 2023 plans for aren’t finalized yet, and of course everything is dependent on budget, but we plan to do some Spec MX-5 races and also a couple of MX-5 Cup races at least. I’ll also run some local and national kart races at GoPro Motorplex, for sure. Maybe a few other events too and if any other opportunities present themselves, I would definitely be interested!
You can follow Westin Workman on Facebook @WestinWorkmanRacing, and Instagram @westin_workman. For more information on Westin, including partnership opportunities, please contact Brian Bonner at [email protected]