Hunter McElrea: Dealing with the disappointment

For every driver it is not just about winning or losing, it is about how you deal with it. In fact this can apply to all of us with the ups and downs that life brings.

Leading the 2019 USF2000 single seater championship throughout the season only to lose on the very last race was gutting for Australian based Kiwi Hunter McElrea. Over 15 races in the USF2000 season he stood on the podium 12 times, four of those from race wins. However, even though rival Braden Eves had eight podiums, he won six races and took the overall championship by just five-points, winning the title at the last race.

At stake was a $US300,000 scholarship into the next phase of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. From the USF2000 Series, drivers move into the Indy Pro 2000 (previously the Star Mazda Championship) then Indy lights before moving through to the top category, the IndyCar Series.

Gutting would be one description to describe the angst for McElrea

Now that nearly four months have passed, Talkmotorsport caught up with McElrea at Highlands Motorsport Park Instead of driving he was on the end of a spanner helping his father, Andy, who was competing in the 2019/20 South Island Formula 1600 Championship. We asked how he feels about the disappointment of losing?

“I would say that as time goes by it gets easier although I wouldn’t say I’m over it. However, the key is not to dwell on it. There’s a lot to be proud of as it wasn’t all bad as we accomplished a huge amount.

“The best thing I did was to get back in the car. The way I’m dealing with it is to focus on the future and the next championship.

“Part of the disappointment was missing out on the $300k US scholarship that we lost. Disappointments happen, that’s motor racing and we are moving on so at the moment I am working hard on getting a seat in Indy Pro 2000.

“The whole of 2019 was a consistent year for us. I was on the podium more than anyone else and had a strong second half of the year.

“The hardest pill to swallow was that I lost the championship from things that were out of my control, but such is life. In the end it will set me up better for the future as there will be more disappointments. It is a matter of bouncing back.

“Since the championship I have had a great opportunity to do some official testing (Indy Pro 2000) with Pabst Racing who continue to give me a fast car and I really feel at home with them. I’m working really hard to do a deal with them. Finding the funding and sponsorship is taking a lot of time.

“Here I am at Highlands helping my father although I would like to be driving a TRS car. We needed to win the scholarship to have made that step. So our current funding and sponsorship is centered on racing in the US at the moment.

“The thing I love about America is that you can win your way to the top. The only way I got to USF2000 is by winning. I won the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship, then I won the Scholarship Shootout giving me the USF2000 funding. I didn’t win the next scholarship but the goal is still to get to IndyCar by 2022.

“I’ve got the confidence going forward that I can do the job. 2019 was one of learning the tracks. I didn’t know anything about them before each round so I had a lot of learning to do. This coming year I will now head into the season with that knowledge on board.”

Hunter McElrea, Portland 2019

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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