Jeansonne’s Humbling Motorsports Journey
 July 2, 2021| 
  • Series News
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Aaron Jeansonne is the embodiment of Mazda’s ‘challenger spirit.’ His racing career has overcome numerous setbacks due in no small part to his work ethic and positive mindset. Jeansonne’s latest challenge is his rookie season in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires.

 

From the beginning, the odds of becoming a race car driver were stacked against Jeansonne. Growing up in a trailer with his dad in a small town in Louisiana, there weren’t many ways to go racing except for video games.

 

“I got a video game when I was five-years old – NASCAR Thunder 2004 to be exact,” Jeansonne said. “I fell in love with racing from playing that game and I started getting competitive with it. I became a pretty big NASCAR fan after that.”

 

A full decade later, Jeansonne found a local dirt oval for karting and knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity to go racing. He learned about handling, setup and tire prep the old-fashioned way: he asked a lot of questions.

 

IMG_6946“I was probably the most annoying kid at that track just with the questions I was asking everybody,” Jeansonne laughed. “The guys that were fast and winning, I just hounded them with questions. People often answered them and that helped the learning curve.”

 

It also helped having a dad with strong mechanical skills (he worked on airplanes at Northrop Grumman). Jeansonne’s father was supportive of his son’s hobby, but not so sure about taking the next step and trying to make a career out of it; racing is expensive after all.

  

Getting a job with his dad at Northrop Grumman out of high school gave Jeansonne a better budget to work with and he learned about the Team USA Scholarship, a program that helps American race car drivers race in prestigious European open-wheel series. Jeansonne aimed to qualify for the scholarship via the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series. Winning the Team USA Scholarship would also qualify Jeansonne for, what at the time was called, the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, a funded path up the open-wheel ladder.

 

“My dad and I really buckled down and I had some instant success and he really believed in me and we put everything into the 2017 season and if I hadn’t won that, we’d have been out of it after that,” Jeansonne said. “We took a big risk and got a big reward.”

 

IMG_2258Jeansonne finished runner-up in the 2017 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series Championship, which was enough catch people’s eye and prove his worthiness of the Team USA Scholarship, which he won. But that’s where the barriers reappeared. Jeansonne was invited to the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, but he didn’t win the big prize, which meant he didn’t have the right funding to continue his open-wheel dreams.

 

When his time racing in the U.K. came to an end, he returned to the U.S., but wasn’t sure what to do. He knew sitting at home feeling sorry for himself wasn’t going to help, so he started delivering food to pay the bills and reached out to the motorsports contacts he’d made thus far.

 

Jeansonne saw another opportunity to jumpstart his career with the Mazda MX-5 Cup Shootout Scholarship and began to dip his toe into some Miata racing. His contacts at Mazda remembered him from the Road to Indy Shootout and he was nominated to participate in 2019. He finished second, which might have devastated most people, but for Jeansonne it was just what he needed.

 

Sebring_031721-9743“At that point, that felt like the biggest weight lifted off of my shoulders since I started racing,” Jeansonne said. “In 2019, I had a very difficult season and 2018 was as well. I came into 2019 with lots of expectations and it was really difficult. I struggled with some things in the car and some tracks that I hadn’t been to. I hadn’t had some success in a while. If I didn’t do well in the Shootout, then that was it. I was beginning to doubt myself and my talent. I was so happy to be able to run fast laps.”

 

Armed with feedback from the Shootout, Jeansonne forged a path to get invited back for the 2020 edition. On the verge of accomplishing that, Mother Nature hit him with another setback; Hurricane Laura practically destroyed his Louisiana home.

 

“When I walked in, the roof was caving in,” Jeansonne recalled. “I guess something fell on it because there was a big split in the roof. The floor was worse. It wasn’t livable anymore. A lot of stuff was molded up, like cards from people I cared about and stuff, so it was sad, but I got to keep the more expensive items like my simulator and computer and stuff, so I got lucky.”

 

No stranger to forming a ‘Plan B,’ Jeansonne, his girlfriend and two cats made the move to Indianapolis to be closer to the motorsports industry.

 

MidO_051621-4404In the middle of the move was the 2020 MX-5 Cup Shootout at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, where Jeansonne finally earned the big prize: a scholarship for a full season of MX-5 Cup valued at more than $110,000.  

 

Overcoming the obstacles thrown at him has given Jeansonne an infectious positive attitude at the racetrack. His racing journey has taught him humility and gratitude, which have served him well in his rookie season.

 

“I remind myself all the time of where I came from and the opportunities that I’ve received,” Jeansonne said. “I remind myself of all the things I never thought I’d get to do, that I’m doing. That’s how I stay grateful. I guess it kind of reflects when I’m around people at the race track.”

 

Next up on the Mazda MX-5 Cup calendar is Road America, August 5 – 7, a track that is brand new to Jeansonne.

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