A Look at the Next Generation of IndyCar

IndyCar's Next Generation is Ready for Its Close Up

5/17/12 in IndyCar   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Practice has begun for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. Eyes will first turn to the drivers that we’ve seen at the Speedway for many years and multiple trips to Victory Lane: Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, as well as the current dominant driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Will Power.
 
However, if there’s one thing that all these drivers have is common is that they’re all on the wrong side of 30. I remember watching all these guys (save Power) in the CART series back in the mid to late 90s. While this generation still has plenty of life in it, for a series starved for attention, new blood will be needed and needed soon.
 
Luckily, fresh faces have been coming into IndyCar these past few years. Here are seven of them currently in the series with potential as well as fan favorite attributes. This list does not include drivers currently in the Mazda Road to Indy, or USAC driver Bryan Clauson, who is competing in the Indy 500 (more on him as our Indy 500 coveraMay 12, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti on pit road during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIREge continues). The oldest of the seven is 27, the youngest is 21. Five of them are the nationality everyone thinks that IndyCar desperately needs: American.  Put simply, if IndyCar can not effectively market these seven drivers, then the problems with this series may be terminal.
 
In alphabetical order, here are the seven young guns to know, both for this year’s 500 and in the future.
 
Marco Andretti
 
The surname is of course instantly recognizable. Marco is the third generation of racing’s most famous family: Michael’s son and Mario’s grandson.  Marco has been around for 6 years, but is still just 25. He broke on to the scene with a bang in the 2006 Indy 500, losing the lead in the final yards to Sam Hornish, Jr. His career hasn’t hit those heights yet, with just 2 career wins. He also has a reputation as a whiny prima donna (he’s not the first Andretti to have that rep). Of course, names worth following don’t necessarily have to be “good guys.” Marco is certainly a polarizing figure due to his name and conduct, but as we’ve seen with NASCAR and the Busch brothers, polarizing can still equal eyeballs.
 
Simona de Silvestro
 
The 23 year old Swiss Missile is in her 3rd season in IndyCars. May 16, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Simona de Silvestro watches from the pits during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIREOf course, given her gender, comparisons to Danica Patrick are inevitable. Before coming to IndyCar, Simona competed in the Atlantic series for 2 years. She won five races and nearly the championship is 2009. Danica also competed in Atlantics for 2 years and didn’t win at all. The big cars have been more of a struggle for Simona, who’s been stuck driving for a smaller single car team, but they have been moments. Simona led laps in her first ever IndyCar race in 2010, and started last season with a 4th in the opener.
 
Things have been downhill since though. Last year at Indianapolis, Simona survived this wicked crash, albeit with severe burns on her hands. Despite that, she managed to qualify on Pole Day despite the burns and driving a car so old, heavy, and slow it was nicknamed Porkchop. It showed her talent and toughness, but the rest of the year she was a non factor, particularly on ovals. This year, her struggles can be described in one word: Lotus. Her team is now the only full-time team stuck with that pig of an engine, and its lack of speed has shown in practice in a big way. Simona has quickly become a fan favorite due to her personality, talent, and cojones. The hope is if and when Lotus gets it together (or when they bail completely), she can finally get some results and fully establish a career. The worry is last year’s oval issues plus this lost year will ruin her.
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5/18/12   |   Debi_L   |   11786 respect

I kept reading, ever hopeful that Graham Rahal would somehow not be mentioned.  LOL should have known better.  Great read Eric!