Korean Racer Hae Min Choi - Indy 500, Indy Lights
2018’s Indy 500 closed with Australia’s Will Power finishing first. Takuma Sato, the first Asian driver to win the Indy 500 last year, suffered a significantly slower speed and crashed with the car ahead of him. He finished a disappointing 32nd place. Danica Patrick, who has been named as a top female driver, began her retirement from racing with a crash. On Carb Day evening of this year’s Indy 500 Race, I was able to meet Haemin Choi, a Korean race car driver. He has participated in the Indy Lights competition, considered a developmental racing series that leads to the Indy 500.
The June 2016 issue of Indy Korea highlighted the Indy Lights racing event. At that time, Haemin Choi finished in 10th place because of problems with his car. He did not compete this year, but he visited Indianapolis to watch the trends of the race, and make contacts with various racing teams. During our meeting, Haemin Choi gave his autograph to Indy Korea staff member Marcia Gascho. She first contacted him in 2016 after attending the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race.
Choi, in good health, showed his English proficiency from the foreign training experiences and tournaments. Bill, his team photographer, was with him that evening. He has trained in Seoul, the U.S., Australia, and other countries. He exercises at least 3 hours a day even during the off seasons.
Ever since he was a child, Haemin Choi showed athleticism in various sports. His favorite toy was a car, so he asked his parents to let him take a go-cart ride if he earned good grades. This led him to start his racing career at the age of 13. He won various cart races and was scouted by the Formula Team for an opportunity to receive elite training. In Korea, Choi won the Formula and GT championships. Alongside the USF2000 and pro-Mazda championship, he had the privilege of entering the Indy Lights series.
Racing is a costly sport because it requires expensive equipment, racing cars, and many team members. Motor racing sports are not popular in Korea in comparison to professional baseball or soccer. It is said that it’s like trying to pick a star from the sky when looking for sponsors. Until now, Haemin Choi had invested a lot of money into exhibition expenses. The Indy Lights race itself costs at least $250,000 to participate in. The costs escalate when traveling and training on other tracks. This year, he watched the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race from the stands.
It takes constant practice racing on different tracks to become more skilled, and through various experiences, you grow into a top driver. However, due to the high costs, if you only train and practice on a few tracks, it is not easy to keep up with the drivers who train more extensively. Therefore, it is difficult to step onto the Indy 500 stage. Takuma Sato of Japan started racing at a very late age of 20. With stable sponsorships and the support of large corporations in Japan, he became the first Asian to win the Indy 500. As the world’s best stage, with more than 400,000 spectators, and 375 million viewers worldwide, winning the Indy 500 is the ultimate achievement in racing.
Haemin Choi is confident that with stable sponsorships, he will be in the top 3 in the Indy Lights race series. Even with a tight training schedule, Choi’s hope is to race in the Indy 500, the highest goal a race car driver can aim for. I hope that he can quickly find sponsors and concentrate on training. I look forward to the day that the Taegeukgi will fly in the stands in Indy, and Haemin Choi, in a Taegeukgi designed helmet, will participate in the Indy 500 race.