There is much more to Tyler Kicera than what he does inside of a race car.
That’s not to say the 2003 Manheim Township grad is not great behind the wheel — he is.
But for Kicera, there is an additional side to the profession, and he has been given a shot to prove it this weekend, when he will compete for a $100,000 scholarship at the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout.
Kicera races Mazdas in the Sports Car Club of America, which is the top amateur racing level in nation, with the hopes of moving up to the next level.
He is one of only four finalists, trimmed from a field of 19, to be vying for the scholarship — the second consecutive year Kicera has had that honor.
Winning the money from Mazda Motorsports would bolster Kicera to the professional circuit in 2018. Money earned helps cover the whole aspect of costs associated with racing, from transportation to cost of entering events.
“The opportunity that Mazda provides for amateur racers is phenomenal,” he said. “No other car company puts that much into the amateur aspect of the racing and to have that opportunity two years in a row is really special.”
While winning a club championship provides an automatic way to compete for the scholarship money, Kicera earned an at-large bid for what he does on and off the track.
Defeating one of the series champions in competition this season helped his case, but the 32-year-old Mount Gretna resident, who holds a degree in architecture from Pratt Institute, is also a big promoter of the sport and Mazda.
“Mazda is not looking for the fastest driver, but the whole package,” Kicera said. “They are interested in somebody that has the marketing that will help Mazda and how you relate to the industry reinforcing the Mazda brand and image.
“Being an advocate and a spokesman for them throughout the season helps. It’s a much more involved partnership between the driver and Mazda themselves. Winning races and championships is No. 1 priority for a driver, but there’s a lot more to this partnership than that.”
To prepare for the event, Kicera will head to California this week. In his words: “I haven’t been in a race car since September. I have to shake the rust off.”
On Saturday, his driving skills will certainly be tested. After the race, those competing for the prize will analyze information received from the car’s data acquisition system.
At the end of the day, one of the four finalists will be awarded the scholarship.
“This opportunity with Mazda is huge … I am lucky to be one of the final four competing,” Kicera said.