Andre Castro: Challenge accepted

It’s pretty surreal to be writing my first ever Team USA Scholarship blog from a foggy Snetterton Circuit this morning, as only four days ago I was back home in New York getting ready for my upcoming journey. And last weekend I was racing for the first time at Mid-Ohio in the final round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship with Legacy Autosport.

I arrived at Heathrow on Tuesday morning, and since then it’s been flat out getting ready for this final race weekend of the BRSCC Avon Tires National Formula Ford Championship. Max (Esterson), my Team USA teammate — and coincidentally, a fellow New Yorker — picked me up at the airport and we went directly to the Low Dempsey Racing shop to make my seat mold; luckily, it turned out to be a perfect fit! I went out to test my new car on a nearby airfield Wednesday morning, where I went through the gearbox and performed a couple of practice starts. From there it was two hours to Snetterton, where I spent four sessions on Thursday getting up to speed and comfortable with the car. One more test day has paved the way for qualifying and three races this weekend.

It’s been a long road since my first Team USA involvement until finally arriving here in England to represent my country. I was initially selected as a Team USA finalist in 2016 after logging some wins in the Skip Barber Championship Series, where I spent my first year racing cars. The Team USA shootout in Palm Beach was an educational and impactful cap to my 2016 season, but I just missed out being chosen as the winner. Since then, I’ve had five years to mature into a young adult, as I was only 17 years old and a junior in high school at the time. I’ve learned a lot through both great and challenging experiences, such as my 2017 USF2000 season that was marred by lack of testing and a big crash. I had to grow up quickly in 2017, as not only did I graduate high school and begin studying at the University of Chicago, but I had to reckon with the reality that my expensive exploration into USF2000 meant I could be out of the seat for a while yet.

It took two years for me to make my return, during which time I worked with fellow UChicago students to revamp my social media channels and create my own personal website. I managed to snag a spot in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Drivers Recruitment program for 2019 and ran a majority of the races for two separate teams. I achieved two rookie class wins and four overall podiums, just missing out on my maiden win on a couple of occasions. That season improved my ability to adapt quickly to different vehicles and boosted my PR skills, as there were tens of thousands of fans at most of the races, which meant our autograph sessions were frantic and packed. The attention we got in Europe was wonderful, and it showed me the passion the fans here have for all forms of motorsports.

The Team USA shootout group in 2016 with (left to right) Tim de Silva, Konrad Czaczyk, Castro, PitFit Training’s Jim Leo, Oliver Askew, Kyle Kirkwood and Robert Megennis. Image by Juha Lievonen

The circuit with the most fan activity on the EuroNASCAR schedule was Brands Hatch, so I am thrilled to be returning for the Formula Ford Festival later this month. I’ve been improving myself physically for this 2021 season since December of last year, and at the moment I feel the fittest I’ve ever been, so I hope to be as prepared as ever for these big races coming up. We have scheduled several days of testing that will also help my level of preparation, and I have to thank the wonderful sponsors and partners of Team USA for the opportunity to have this much track time in such a short period.

My first day yesterday provided me with a boatload of information to take in, so I’m sure it’ll take a bit more time to be exactly where I want to be on pace, but I’m looking forward to this challenge and to learning from my team. I’m also making sure to enjoy the ride as much as possible, so I hope to have some enjoyable battles out there and some fruitful travels in between track days. For now, I’m excited to race against some of the best drivers in Britain this weekend, and I hope I can close the gap throughout the next couple of days! I’ll update the blog next week reviewing the races and looking ahead to what’s next.

Andre