The Road to Indy
Ely Navarro Has His Sights Set on the Finish Line to IndyCar
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Elysiah Navarro is on the road to IndyCar, and he isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The Hamilton Southeastern High School student, and Geist resident, is barely legal to drive a car, but he has dreams of one day racing in the Indy 500. So far, Navarro is on the fast track to that dream.
Last December, Navarro took first place in the Second Annual Lucas Oil School of Racing Scholarship Shootout at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, besting a pool of 26 other drivers. The coveted scholarship guarantees him a fully paid entry into the 2020 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, which had a delayed start in June, due to COVID-19, with races continuing throughout this summer and into the fall.
The entry into the 2020 Lucas Oil Formula Race Series is a giant step toward Navarro’s goal of taking the wheel in IndyCar.
“I’m very excited,” he says. “I’ve written down my goals for this year, and I read them every day. I want to get a podium in every race of the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, with the ultimate goal of winning the championship for that series and be a contender and win the Team USA Scholarship for racing. I know I am capable of doing it.”
Probably the most impressive part of Navarro’s victory at the Scholarship Shootout is the fact that it was only the second time he had gotten behind the wheel of a Formula Car.
The karts Navarro has been racing typically top out at around 72 miles per hour. The Formula cars hit speeds of more than 120 miles per hour.
Many of the drivers Navarro was pitted against had also raced a series in Formula before and already had a good feel of how to drive the cars. Ages of the drivers ranged from 12 to 25 years old, with Navarro taking home the win at just 15 years old.
“We had the two-day school event to learn how to drive the cars,” Navarro says. “It was only my second time driving one, though. They are very different from karts. The aerodynamics and engine are all different. It is like a training car, a slower version of IndyCar. Coming in, many of the people I competed against had driven in this series before and driven these cars. So, when they called my name as the winner, I couldn’t believe it.”
Navarro’s passion for racing started at a young age. His father, Josh, raced motorcycles. Ely wanted to follow his dad’s footsteps, but his parents felt that it was far too dangerous. Around seven years old, Josh got Ely and his sister a go-kart. But it sat for almost three years because of a fear he had to drive it, mainly because of the noise with how loud the karts are. But, at 10 years old, Ely got over his fear and started racing in 2014.
As Navarro started winning and earning honors like Rookie of the Year at Michiana Raceway Park in Southbend, he realized that this hobby was a full-on passion. So, the Navarro family relocated to the Indianapolis area in 2017, knowing that it was the place their son would need to be to chase his dreams.
Along the way, Ely says his family has been as supportive as any teenager could hope for.
“They have really influenced me a lot and their support is everything,” he says. “I want to learn how to get better and they want to see me reach my dreams. My dad has no background in mechanics. He and I have learned all of this along the way. From when I first started in a junk kart, we just showed up and I drove. We have fun. That is really what it is about.”
“Michelle and I are extremely proud of Ely, and all our children,” Josh says. “We teach them to have fun, work hard and do your best. Our primary goal is for each of them to grow up living and working their dream job, but they must have the passion and pour their heart and soul into those dreams. If they focus on the present moment and have fun, the happiness in their success will follow. As parents, we have structured our lives to help support their dreams as long as they are enjoying themselves.”
Over the years, Navarro has gained several crucial mentors in the race world, including Jimmy Simpson — a successful kart racer who has also competed in Indy Lights & USAC Midget National Championship as well as Formula Atlantic — and former IndyCar driver Mark Dismore owner of New Castle Motorsports Speedway. Today, Navarro continues races and practices weekly in New Castle.
“They have all helped me out a lot and really helped me be a better driver,” Navarro says. “Alexander Rossi is someone I look up to a lot, too. I want to do what he did and win the Indy 500 on my first try.”
In the long term, Navarro’s goal is also to gain more sponsorships. The sponsorship world can be tough, but with the advent of social media in the last decade, the possibilities are there. One way to accomplish that though is to simply keep winning and that continues to be the main focus for Navarro.
“They say the money and sponsorships are out there,” Michelle says. “It is just a matter of making connections with people and winning enough races to get noticed.”
Overall, Navarro wants to look back on his journey and know that he has left nothing on the table. He continues to put forth full effort on his road to Indy, and he hopes to inspire other young, would-be drivers as well.
“I want to leave a big footprint in the motorsports world,” he says. “I want to win the Indy 500 and the IndyCar Championship, multiple times, and prove that I am a great driver. I also want to show other kids that you don’t have to already be in the motorsports industry to do this. If you work hard, you can do it, if you really want to.”
For more information about Ely’s journey, or to find sponsorship opportunities, visit elymotorsports.com.