The high school junior is balancing his studies at Churchill High School in San Antonio, Texas with professional sports car racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
“It’s very difficult because I can only miss nine school days per semester in Texas,” Estep said. “They take it very seriously and I could get in serious trouble with the state if I miss any more than the nine days. It’s hard to keep up with my schoolwork and racing, but it’s worth it.”
Estep grew up racing go-karts at a track just outside of San Antonio before he made the jump to the international stage. He raced formula cars in Europe and Canada – winning two open-wheel championships by the time he was just 16 years old.
“When I was a kid, I kept driving my sister’s Barbie jeep around the driveway, so my dad bought me a go-kart when I was just four years old,” Estep said. “My dad used to pass the go-kart track I raced at as a kid and he always thought to himself, ‘Maybe I’ll take my son there someday.'”
When Jeremy Dale, founder and co-owner of Loveland, Colorado-based JDX Racing, reached out to Estep this year, the young driver had already decided he wanted to get away from open-wheel racing and was looking for the next step.
“I had seen Trenton’s very impressive open-wheel record in just one year of racing,” Dale said. “I’m always looking for drivers who have won championships and he had already won two championships in Canada.”
When Dale found out Estep was no longer interested in open-wheel opportunities, he knew he could open another door for the young driver.
“It was really mature for a 17-year-old to look at the landscape of racing and see that being a professional open-wheel driver is just not practical,” Dale said. “Trenton saw that there was more opportunity to race sports cars, and that’s where JDX came in. I told him and his family that JDX races Porsches in IMSA and that if he wanted to be a professional sports car driver, he should start in a Porsche. That’s how you hone your skill.”
A week later, Estep met Dale in Texas and took the Porsche GT3 out for a spin. Estep did 20 laps in two 10-lap sessions on the track and that was all it took – he loved the car.
“Ultimately, we let him decide if this was a path he wanted to take, and he just blew us away,” Dale said. “We were so impressed with him and he was really quick. He got out of the car and he had this big grin on his face.”
Dale described it as one of those things that just fell into place.
The young driver had only six weeks to prepare for his first sports car race, compared to other teams and drivers who had already done multiple days of testing.
“We knew we were behind a little bit; we knew Sebring would be tough,” Dale said. “I told Trenton that a top-five finish would be amazing.”
Estep took it a step further. In his first sports car race at Sebring International Raceway in March, he placed third. He then topped that off by finishing second in Race 2 the next day.
“He completely exceeded our expectations,” Dale said. “When he first got into that car during our Sebring testing, I told him it was like drinking out of a fire hose – there’s stuff coming at you so fast but you just have to go at the pace you can go at. You can’t take everything in in just one week.”
Said Estep: “The transition from karts to formula cars was relatively easy – I was pretty surprised and I really adapted to the formula car well. But when I switched from formula cars to sports cars, it was just so different. Everything I had learned previously, I had to throw out the window. Porsche is a rear-engine car so braking and throttle are major keys.”
JDX Racing is sponsored by Hertz, a major car rental company based in Florida.
“This sponsorship is really important for us, we really value that relationship we have with Hertz, but it may have put extra pressure on Trenton,” Dale said. “He is so early in his career and he’s representing a real, corporate sponsor. It’s another load that he carries on his young shoulders and he’s done that really well.”
Dale, who has a professional racing background himself, said he’s perfectly comfortable coaching and developing young drivers.
“It’s something that’s natural to me and I’m just used to it,” Dale said.
Most recently at Barber Motorsports Park, Estep placed third in Race 1 and second in Race 2. He is currently in second place in points in the Platinum Class.
Estep said he is looking forward to Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in May as he already has some track time there under his belt.
“Our next race at COTA is going to be my favorite,” he said. “It’s about an hour and a half from my house so a lot of my friends and family will be there to cheer me on.”
“Eventually, I would love to run in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship or have a factory deal someday. But for now, my goal is win the GT3 Cup Challenge USA in 2017. That would be huge. It’s a Porsche so it’s just surreal to be driving in this series. The car’s reputation is amazing.”
Source. LST Marketing