Evagoras Papasavvas, Indy Car Driver and LHS freshman
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (September 2, 2022) – Evagoras Papasavvas of Loveland, Ohio is not your average high school freshman. No, at age 14 (he’ll turn 15 in December) he is completing his rookie season racing Indy Cars in the Road to Indy series.
This 2022 Indy Car racing season is officially his rookie season competing in the Road to Indy series, but it is his second season as a driver with the Jay Howard Driver Development team. His final racing of the season started Thursday, September 1 at Portland International Raceway with racing through Sunday, September 4. Evagoras is far from a rookie behind the wheel though. He won several racing awards including points championships and top driver awards on the KART racing circuit in recent years. KART racing is where he first caught the interest of Jay Howard and was invited to test drive and then join the Driver Development program. The Road to Indy series is the first step toward his goal of becoming a professional Indy Car driver.
“It’s a very well organized and very well built path for young drivers wanting to come from go-karts, or any sort of junior formula cars up to the professional level of Indy car,” said Papasavvas. “It has three levels before you get to Indy car.”
The first level is USF 2000 which is where Papasavvas is right now. Next is Indy Pro 2000 which he explained has the same chassis as the USF 2000 car, but a more advanced car with more downforce and more grip giving the car more power. That translates to more speed for the driver to handle. Then comes Indy Lights; the last step in Road to Indy before a driver can get to Indy Car.
“They are really fast cars. They are much quicker than the Indy Pro 2000.” – Evagoras Papasavvas, USF 2000 rookie driver.
Indy Light cars have still more downforce and more power. Success in the Indy Light cars leads to the real possibility of driving in the professional level of Indy Car racing.
“After Indy Lights, you go to the professional level of Indy Car if you get the seat,” said Papasavvas.
There are “scholarships” awarded for winning a series championship. The scholarship provides money to move up to the next division. Winning a USF 2000 championship would mean moving up to the Indy Pro 2000 division and ultimately moving up the ladder for Papasavvas. This rookie season his focus was on learning and returning ready to compete in 2023.
“I’ll be in the USF 2000 next year,” he said. “This season is all about learning, taking in as much information as possible so next year you’re ready and fighting at the top consistently throughout the season to win the championship.”
Papasavvas was supposed to begin a full 2022 USF 2000 race schedule at Florida in February. Instead, he was recovering from a head injury suffered in a crash during his final KART race in December 202. The injury occurred when Evagoras was thrown from his KART vehicle after it was struck from behind by another KART racer at about 60 mph – (KART vehicles are not equipped with seat belts). His head struck the pavement. The injury, treatment, and subsequent recovery time pushed the start of his season back more than four months to June 9-12.
“Yeah, it was in Wisconsin at Road America,” said Papasavvas. “The weekend started out pretty strong. In the first few practice sessions I was in the top 10 fastest times which was good. We definitely showed pace, we were really quick. But in racing, sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
They did not go his way during qualifying. On what would have been his fastest lap, he lost downforce and lost speed when another car got too close in front of him. Papasavvas started in the back for his first race. In a turn on the third lap he found himself too close to the car in front of him and again lost downforce. He spun out, hit the wall and was out of the race.
“It was a really fast corner and that’s where the downforce is used and needed the most at those high speeds,” Papasavvas explained. “Because I was so close, I lost all the air on my wings and I spun around and I hit the wall and . . . that was just it!”
That was the end of race one and the weekend of racing. Papasavvas was unable to race in the second race of the weekend because there was a lot of damage to the car. He did note the car is a lot safer than the go-kart. His sense of humor intact despite crashing out after only 3 laps. It was supposed to be an important learning opportunity with a 12 lap race on a 4-mile road course with 14 turns. He remained positive after not being able to compete that firs weekend.
“I was still pretty proud of myself because in the practice sessions we knew we were quick, I was quick and I had the pace,” he reflected. “That happens, that’s racing and it was just a really good learning opportunity especially very important in my first race.”
Papasavvas clearly gained some confidence during the practice sessions showing he had a fast car and was able to handle the speed – keep the pace. That was practice, so what did he learn from the race and crashing out early?
“I started the race in the back and by the time the crash came, I was still toward the back,” Papasavvas said. “I wasn’t making up positions quick as I initially planned. That’s part of it. The other part is through that corner I was a little bit too close and lost a lot of air and spun around.”
Lesson learned, Papasavvas put that race behind him and headed closer to home for racing June 30-July 3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH. It was a weekend that offered the opportunity for three races on the 13-turn road course. Racing against veteran USF 2000 drivers with more experience than him, he found some better results finishing 2 of the 3 races suffering a slight mishap causing bent steering in the race he did not finish.
“It was definitely better for sure,” he said. “I finished race one and race two both in 15th. I think 20-some drivers which is pretty good. It was just a big learning opportunity to get to that checkered flag, to get in all the laps. Getting those lap times under your belt is what’s really important.”
There were drivers in their third year of USF 2000 racing. It was only the second race weekend for Evagoras and his first race finishes on the USF 2000 circuit. The majority of the competition had more experience. He was proud to take the checkered flag and finish 15th in two of the three races. How did that feel?
“I felt really proud and satisfied with what I accomplished. This fast progression of getting up there in my second race weekend was really good.” – Evagoras Papasavvas
The response from the Jay Howard development team has been very positive. They continue to reinforce the importance of finishing and completing all the laps. Papasavvas applied lessons learned at Toronto, Canada during a July 15-17 race weekend on a street course there. He was consistently top 10 during practice session there. He was working toward a possible podium finish (top three) racing fifth with two laps to go and a yellow caution came out. During the caution laps his car quit due to a gear sensor failure which would not allow him to shift gears. His team told him it is a very rare part failure. Sadly, as his car sat dead on the side of the track, the green flag came out, racing resumed and two cars in front of him had an incident causing them to drop back. It was a situation which likely would have given him the number three finish and a place on the podium in only his third race weekend. A broken suspension caused when he pushed too hard into a corner and touched the wall put him out of the other race.
Since the mid-July race in Toronto, he spent time preparing to enter the classroom of Loveland High School as a freshman in mid-August. USF 2000 rules do not allow on track testing between races, so his race classroom became the race simulator. He was able to plug in the Portland, Oregon track where he is racing this weekend (September 1-4) to practice. Like school though, he spends a lot of time reading notes and studying to prepare for the ultimate test on race day.
Still, he looks forward to the school year and the time he is not racing.
“I look forward to meeting new friends,” Papasavvas said. “In high school meet a few more people, make more friends and expand my group of friends.”
Off the track, out of the cockpit, away from the simulator, notes and everything else, Evagoras finds fun the same places you’d expect any high school freshman to find fun.
“We have like a neighborhood friend group who live all around me,” he said. “I like to go on bike rides with them, just hang out with them outside and play football and all sorts of games.”
It has to be a welcome respite for the freshman high school student whose “free time” is not really free, but rather filled with studying, practicing and preparing to be a professional Indy Car driver. His teachers are the professionals with the Jay Howard Driver Development Team. Not only are they teaching Evagoras Papasavvas to drive fast cars, they are working hard to find every fraction of a second of speed they can.
“They are a professional racing team,” said Papasavvas. “They do every single thing, every small little detail they can do to make us just one-tenth of a second quicker on the track. The drivers and the team; the engineers, coaches, everybody, we all work really hard to get that one extra tenth of a second on the track.”
Evagoras Papasavvas has experienced what it means to be quick, drive fast on the track. He’s 14, will turn 15 in December. So, how fast?
“The fastest I’ve achieved in this car was at Road America,” Papasavvas said. “They have big long straights. I was able to reach over 150 miles per hour in the USF 2000. Road America is the fastest track on the calendar. It’s definitely a lot quicker.”
And, of course, like any race driver Evagoras did not forget to thank his sponsors: Tiger Natural Gas, Body Wise International and Ares Elite Sports Vision are just three of many he thanked. Most importantly, he offered thanks to “all my family and friends who are supporting me, and the Jay Howard Team”.