Jackson Lee Competing in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship
Writer / Seth Johnson
From an early age, auto racing was simply in Jackson Lee’s blood.
“I’ve been very interested in racing just because of family connections into racing,” Lee says. “I got started with that when I was really young. I always played baseball and basketball, but my passion and focus was always on motorsport.”
While some might assume Lee discovered his love for racing via his father Kevin Lee, an IndyCar broadcaster for NBC Sports and host of “Trackside” on 107.5 The Fan, the 19-year-old actually pinpoints his mother Stacey as the reason he first wanted to get behind a wheel and compete.
“Dad is definitely very involved in racing, but it was really my mom’s side where I got my passion from,” Lee says. “Dad actually said when I was born that I would never drive a race car, and then eventually got overruled on that.”
Lee remembers his first real introduction to racing as a 7-year-old. From there, the wheels quickly started turning.
“All of my mom’s side of the family drove sprint cars and did some go-kart stuff,” Lee says. “I was 7 when I went to one of my cousin’s sprint-car races. I asked how he got started in it and how long he’d been racing. My parents made the mistake of telling me that he got started when he was 7, so I was like, ‘Hold on. I can do this now?’ It spiraled out of control from there.”
Having been immersed in the world of auto racing since the age of 8, Lee now passionately competes in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, a pivotal step in his journey through the Road to Indy development program. His love for racing games has undoubtedly fueled his real-life pursuit of speed and excellence on the track.
“A baseball equivalent would be Class A baseball,” he says. “Essentially, the goal is to be driving in the Indy 500 three to four years from now. It’s all a ladder development series, so each car as you move up gets a little bit faster and has a little more downforce. They just continue to introduce you to more challenging, bigger cars as you move up until you’re eventually in IndyCar.”
As part of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, Lee travels all over the country, taking part in a similar season to that of IndyCar.
“Our first event was in St. Petersburg, Florida, and we’ve essentially raced with all the IndyCar races,” Lee says. “We’ll travel with their calendar, so we’ll have races here in Indianapolis in May around the Indy 500. Wherever the IndyCar races are, we’re usually the races that happen beforehand.”
Currently enrolled as a freshman at IUPUI, Lee is also balancing school with his racing career. Like any other student-athlete, he admits there are times where he has to make difficult sacrifices due to academics.
“It is a challenge, but I treat it as if I’m just any other student-athlete,” Lee says. “I’m able to work with my professors and get assignments and tests done ahead of time, so I’m not having to catch up on anything when I get back from a race.”
In dealing with the public-facing side of being a race-car driver, Lee says his dad has been very helpful in teaching him the ins and outs of media relations.
“He’s certainly been a big help in my career, just because he’s seen so many drivers come up through the ranks and make it to IndyCar,” Lee says. “He knows what it takes to be able to make it, and also how to handle yourself on the media side and be the best driver you can be off the track. He’s been a big help with coaching me on that.”
While a great deal of know-how is required to compete at Lee’s level of racing, sponsorships are also essential in order to cover the financial side of things. For this reason, Lee is grateful for the support of Browning Chapman, a specialty contracting company headquartered in Westfield.
“Racing certainly isn’t a cheap sport, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of everyone who’s a part of our program,” Lee says. “Browning Chapman was a big part of getting us on track last year and then again this year. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to put the season together, so I’m really thankful for all that they do for us.”
As he continues to move up in the Road to Indy development program, Lee’s ultimate hope is to one day find himself competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – the Indy 500.
“The main goal is to make it to IndyCar and to drive in the Indy 500 one day,” Lee says. “But as a race-car driver, if I can make a living driving some form of race car, that would be great, whether that’s a sports car, a NASCAR or whatever it may be.”
Stay up to date with Lee’s racing career at jacksonleeracing.com.