Myles Rowe started dreaming months ago about climbing to INDY NXT by Firestone in the 2024 season.
That dream became a reality Saturday, Sept. 2. And it’s also a significant piece of motorsports history.
Rowe, from Brooklyn, New York, clinched the USF Pro 2000 championship Saturday at Portland International Raceway with his third-place finish in the second race of a season-ending tripleheader for the open-wheel development series. He earns a scholarship that will enable him next season to climb to INDY NXT by Firestone – the official INDYCAR development series and one step below the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Pabst Racing with Force Indy driver Rowe also became the first African American driver to win a North American open-wheel championship. Those seeds were sewn when he began racing in the USF2000 championship in 2021 with Force Indy as part of Penske Entertainment’s Race for Equality and Change program. Rowe, 23, moved to Pabst Racing last year and narrowly missed out on the USF2000 title before rising to USF Pro 2000 this season with the team and Force Indy’s support.
“Experience is a wicked teacher,” Rowe said. “It gives you the exam first and then teaches you the lesson. And that’s exactly what these past three years have been for us. This year was the final test to see what I’ve got, and luckily, I was able to pull through for the team.”
There was little luck in Rowe’s title run. He has five victories in 16 starts this season, with only two finishes outside the top 10 in his first season in the series.
While Rowe will find a new home in the INDYCAR paddock next season in INDY NXT by Firestone, his connection to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES already runs deep.
Before his teen years, Rowe was testing a go-kart for the first time under the lights at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. Another kart racer on the track that evening took notice of Rowe’s evident talent, even at a young age – NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power.
“I was so young, and for him to spot me, it was crazy,” Rowe said. “It was running my go-kart for the first time ever. I had never ran it anywhere, and he just thought I was good and just decided to mess around with me. Pass me, get behind me. Ever since then, it’s been a hell of a ride.”
Rowe went on to win the Procup Karting Championship at age 12 during his first full year of racing. He graduated to car racing, winning the 2018 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. In between racing, Rowe earned his degree in film and screen studies at Pace University in New York City.
Power has served as a mentor to Rowe during his karting and car racing career, and he and Team Penske President Tim Cindric were among the first to congratulate Rowe when he climbed from his car Saturday in Portland after clinching the title.
Rowe also enjoyed a hearty embrace with Rod Reid, who started the Force Indy program in 2021 and also leads the NXG Motorsports program that exposes minority and inner-city youngsters to racing and encourages them to use motorsports as a vehicle to learn concepts about science, math and technology.
There’s one more USF Pro 2000 race Sunday for Rowe at Portland, and then his focus will shift to the final rung before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“I’m already thinking about it,” Rowe said of his rise to INDY NXT by Firestone. “I was thinking about it six months ago.”