iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Arminda Figueroa

GET UPDATES FROM Arminda Figueroa
 

Is J. Rios the Tiger Woods of Formula Racing?

Posted: 08/11/11 12:04 AM ET

Even if you aren't a sports fan there are certain names you instantly recognize. Tiger Woods, Venus & Serena Williams and Mark Sanchez.

This is because as minorities, they have revolutionized golf, tennis and football by conquering the competition. They are world renowned for being the best in three sports that never saw a minority at number one.

So I ask you this: what will it take for America to notice a young, Hispanic teen whose dream is to become the number one Formula 1 Racer? You might be wondering who Jesus Rios is and what is his untold story.

I first heard of Jesus Rios, also known as J. Rios, a 16-year-old Hispanic teen, when his mother Mari Quiala, a personal acquaintance, told me of his accomplishments. J. Rios is known for dominating the kart racing scene in the U.S. At age 16, while most teens are trying to get their driver's license, J. Rios is about to cross over by revolutionizing the Formula 3 racing scene.

For 6 years, J. Rios has been breaking track records in go-kart racing. He has become widely known as one of the best in the United States. He has been scouted by a French team to race in a Formula 3. The first day on the track during time trials, Rios broke the track record by finishing first and second in his first two races. It is easy to understand why Rios has so much buzz, attention and interest in Europe, but what about in the United States, which is his home country? Shouldn't we be the first ones supporting him?

J. Rios is not your regular teenage kid. He has a dream; as Hispanics call it, "an American dream". His dream is to become a top Formula 1 Racer. His first task is to perform well at the Formula 3 events. Formula 3 Racing is known for being a primary European sport, and now they are watching a young Hispanic American compete with seasoned veterans and winning! His mother has sacrificed her own career to completely invest in her son's future. She is investing all her time to ensure J. gets the chance he deserves to compete and succeed. Like every mother, she wants to do whatever she can for her child to succeed. Mari Quiala and her husband are no different than any other parents in America, who work multiple jobs and late shifts to give their children a fighting chance. Even J. Rios is missing most of his high school experiences because of his determination to be the best. He takes online classes to make up time and actually has enough credits to graduate a year early. The roadblocks have been numerous but are not nearly enough to stop Rios, instead he keeps driving and we should all be watching and cheering him on!

To that point, I'd like to see J. on ESPN, NBC, Telemundo, Univision and every other major media outlet. They should be following this young star and telling his story for all to know and as a positive Latino role model. After being recruited by one of the top French F3 Racing teams, J. is surprisingly struggling to find sponsors. An American, Latino or not, representing our country in a predominantly European sport should not be having this issue.

Honestly, I never had an interest in Formula 3 until I heard about Jesus Rios. Then again, how many young kids were picking up golf clubs before Tiger Woods? Jesus possesses the talent, dedication and drive to inspire a nation of young teens to explore a sport they might not have given a second thought to.

The reasons sponsors should be lining outside Jesus Rios' door are clear.

From a marketing stand point, companies have an opportunity to invest in a future star, a potential poster child for youth throughout the United States. When Tiger Woods was 16, I wonder what would have happened if Reebok endorsed him at an early age instead of waiting until he was 20 and every analyst started talking about breaking records. What would that market look like now if Nike never gave Tiger a $40 million dollar endorsement? What could your brand look like four years from now if you sponsored Jesus Rios today?