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Local teen wins $250k toward his burgeoning career as a race car driver

(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Arlington teen Hudson Schwartz was four years old when he took the wheel of his first go-kart and was quickly hooked.

Ten years later, and behind the wheel of a real race car, he won a 15-race series and a $250,000 scholarship. He will put the money toward realizing his dream of becoming a professional auto racer.

“It was an amazing race,” Schwartz, the son of Axios co-founder Roy Schwartz, told ARLnow. “It was down to the line.”

He passed a driver with whom he was neck-and-neck, rounded the last corner and finished first in the final race of the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, a stepping stone for racers intent on reaching the IndyCar Series.

“A huge weight lifted from my shoulders,” he said. “I was just so happy.”

Hudson, who lives in Arlington and attends McLean School in Potomac, Maryland, caught the racing bug from Roy, who once raced Spec Miata cars and still takes them to the track for fun.

The younger Schwartz raced go-karts regionally and then nationally before switching to cars at age 12. Since then, he has worked to complete the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series, where drivers learn the ropes in basic and advanced schools while racing cars at slower speeds.

“It’s the perfect first step in a race car career,” he said, praising the coaches.

Now he ascends to the next rung of the Indycar Ladder system, dubbed USF2000, where the cars are faster and the drivers more experienced.

The 9th grader sees his youth — he says he is the youngest in the Indycar Ladder system and has been out-racing drivers two to five years his senior — as an asset.

“I get a lot more time to develop myself,” he said. “Also, it helps me because it does stir a lot of attention. Ultimately, I’m just going to try and do my best, age does help that a lot.”

The $250,000 scholarship will offset the next year of races, which will occur across the country. While those will not start for a few months, he and other USF2000 racers made their debut during an unofficial race in Indianapolis.

“It’s so amazing to be racing in such a historic place,” Schwartz said from Indianapolis last week, while waiting to get his seat fitted for his car.

He’s already making an impression at the higher level. From the USF2000 website on Sunday:

The USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires annual Fall Combine wrapped up this afternoon after two days of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit. A small margin separated the top times across each of the three ladder series – USF Pro 2000, USF2000 and USF Juniors – in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive season in 2024. […]

In USF2000, Hudson Schwartz of Pabst Racing set the bar with a fastest lap of 1:25.8 (102.291 mph) in his series debut following a season of USF Juniors. This past week, Schwartz, 14, of Washington, D.C., was crowned the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series Champion where he earned a $250,000 prize to advance to USF2000 in 2024. Schwartz paced all but one of the six test outings at IMS.

“The last session was amazing,” said Schwartz. “I was really pushing the car to the limit. I really like the USF2000 car. It is so fast and driving it at Indianapolis Motor Speedway just means so much to me. It is such a great track and I really enjoyed driving it. This is really the perfect way to kick off the year and the start of my USF2000 career. I want to thank everyone at Pabst as well. It was amazing being able to work with such a great team.”

When Schwartz raced go-karts, he practiced at a track an hour-and-a-half outside of D.C. Racing cars, he has fewer options, so he trains on a simulator in his Arlington home.

“I can simulate every track in the world, pretty much, and I can do the car I’m driving,” he said. “I’ll spend hours on that, doing laps, practicing the track before I go.”

Schwartz practices hitting a sweet spot, or apex, that gets him through turns in the shortest amount of time, as well as when to brake and accelerate. The simulator even gets the bumps — mostly — right.

“It’s not completely accurate but it helps so much,” he said.

On the track, he pushes 150 miles an hour, which is “so fast [that] everything around you is going slow.”

“I’m always thinking about the next turn, because two-tenths of a second can be the difference between second and fifth place,” he said.

He is also thinking about the next turn off the track, too, in terms of his education.

Racing pulls Schwartz from school a few times every month but he still strives for high marks at McLean School.

“It’s hard managing school and racing but without straight As, I can’t race, so school always comes first,” he said. “I’m going to try and stay in person as long as I can.”

He knows that as his racing career picks up, he will have to switch to online school eventually.

“The social part is a big deal,” he said, already thinking of one day losing the social interactions in high school.

But for Schwartz, the sacrifice — to race once more in Indianapolis as an IndyCar driver — is worth it.

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