Catching up With Robert Megennis
 October 10, 2018| 
  • Series News
Megennis Catch Up 2018

When Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires fans were first introduced to New Yorker Robert Megennis three years ago, he was a wise-beyond-his-years youngster with a plan. Now a self-described “pretty busy 18-year-old who lives and breathes racing every day,” Megennis continues to work his way up the development series ladder in order to chase his dream: to one day win a Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Megennis, once an internationally-ranked sabre fencer, has dedicated himself to his goal both on and off the track. He established a network of sponsors while honing his race craft over two seasons in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, then joined Juncos Racing to contest the next rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder this season, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The lessons learned from the 2017 champions – and working alongside eventual champion Rinus VeeKay – helped push Megennis just that much further.

“Working with Juncos was such a pleasure,” said Megennis. “They are truly a professional team and seeing how much work they put in and how they operate within the team was very insightful and helpful. They taught me a lot, that will forever help me as a driver. Along with that, seeing how hard Rinus worked really pushed me to step up my game in every area; preparation, fitness, etc. To win a championship you must be good at everything that goes into racing and driving with Juncos showed me where I was weak and helped me improve and progress which really showed throughout the season.”

While pleased with the end result (six podium finishes including podiums in three of the final five races to finish fifth in the final standings), Megennis takes plenty of positives from a rookie season that also saw the introduction of a new chassis: the Tatuus PM-18.

“We would have liked to finish higher in the standings, but I’m happy with the way the season went overall, especially with the way we really turned it up in the second half of the year. And I really enjoyed moving to the Pro Mazda car. You have to make a few driving adjustments, moving from the USF-17 to the PM-18, to adapt to more aero, more tire and more power. But it’s a very similar technique so you get it down quickly. It was a very good transition. I drove the old Pro Mazda car last year at the final race of the year and that car was completely different. You really had to change your technique. This car has all the same basics, but it’s faster.”

Megennis continued his move up the ladder at the recent Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, trying his hand at the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series and the Dallara IL-15. He wasted no time getting comfortable, finishing the two-day event with the fourth quickest time (a mere tenth of a second behind leader Ryan Norman) and the quickest time in the final session. Megennis attributed his success to the steady progression in aerodynamics and horsepower that the ladder provides.

“The Indy Lights car was so fun to drive! There was even more to learn, like the anti-roll bars, the mappings, the gear ratios. But again, it was the same basics. It’s a big race car, like a smaller Indy car, and it had a very different level of intensity. But I felt as though I was very well prepared for it, and adapted well. Having driven all three cars in the Mazda Road to Indy, I felt that everything transfers really well. I was prepared to move up each step and driving each car. And the Andretti team was great – it was fun to go to the shop and see all their cars. It’s a great program and everyone was super nice. They have an interesting chemistry; they’re so used to each other. It was like a family and it was a very fun dynamic.”

While racing remains the focus of his life, Megennis has chosen to continue his education, though he plans to postpone school for now in order to figure out how everything will fit together – both on and off the track.

“I’ve been accepted to Fordham University, majoring in Philosophy. I’m taking a year off of school to figure out how college will work with racing and how to get there – maybe it means taking a lighter load during the spring semester. So this winter, we’ll test the Pro Mazda car and test Indy Lights, since we’re not sure what the plan is right now. We’ll see what direction we want to do and what budget we have. We did well in Indy Lights at the Chris Griffis Test so if I do Lights, that would be good, but another year of Pro Mazda would be good as well. I mean, where else would I go?  I’ll be super happy either way.”

Naturally, the off-season plan includes as much driving as possible, though sabre fencing might just sneak into the picture as well.

“I’ll do some karting just for fun, because I just want to drive. As long as I’m driving, I’m happy. But I’ll also be fencing. I had to stop competitive fencing over the summer but I still train with some of the Olympic teams. It’s great cardio and great hand-to-eye coordination. Now that I have some time off, I can try to fit in a competition or two, because what’s not to love about hitting people with swords? The only problem is that because of the rules of fencing, where you can’t cross over your feet, one side of your body becomes really dominant. So my right side is super strong, which I suppose helps on ovals, but it makes seat fitting interesting!”

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