The path to racing stardom can be an expensive one, and a number of current Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic stars have not forgotten how unforgiving the trip to the top can be for a young driver.

To that end, Jimmy Vasser, A.J. Allmendinger and Bryan Sellers have pledged their support to the same Team USA Scholarship program that helped launch their careers, aiding in securing sponsorship for 18-year-old Oklahoma driver Slade Miller in six upcoming races of the Talley's New Zealand Formula Ford Championship.

The Team USA Scholarship program has helped the careers of a number of America's top drivers ever since its inception in 1990, giving the best and brightest young talents a chance to compete on an international stage.

The program has been championed over the years by noted racing journalist and TV broadcaster Jeremy Shaw as well as Champ Car team owner Dale Coyne, former Tasman Motorsports owners Steve and Christine Horne, Ivey Engines, Sparco racewear and RACER magazine.

PKV Racing co-owner and 1996 Champ Car title winner Vasser was part of the first Team USA Scholarship Team in 1990, while Allmendinger and Sellers were teammates in 2001 during the month-long championship that includes the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix.

The three drivers as well as former Toyota Atlantic champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice have pledged sponsorship dollars for this year's championship to aid Miller's cause.

"Winning a Team USA Scholarship meant so much to me," Allmendinger said. "I learned a lot of lessons about myself and about what I needed to do to move on up the racing ladder. I'm very grateful to all the people who helped me and I'm happy to be able to help someone else get the same opportunity."

The program has aided a number of young racers throughout North America, with graduates of the program currently finding success in nearly every racing series in the United States.

Former Champ Car drivers Memo Gidley and Bryan Herta were beneficiaries of the program as were NASCAR drivers Jerry Nadeau and Ashton Lewis.

Miller is currently in New Zealand, and today will start testing his Stealth/Van Diemen chassis in preparation for a trio of races next weekend at Levels Raceway, Timaru.

His shot at claiming victory in one of the Southern Hemisphere's most prestigious races, the New Zealand Grand Prix, will come on January 15th-16th at Teretonga Park, Invercargill.