Not the way the series is going now.
The good news keeps coming in droves for the IndyCar series, and continued today with the announcement of J.R. Hildebrand officially joining the fold at Panther Racing. Also being reported is that Graham Rahal has a seat in a new partnership between everything-he-touches-turns-to-gold Chip Ganassi and drag racing legend Don Prudhomme. Joining Rahal will be Charlie Kimball, who drove for Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights series last year.
Wait a minute...three guys, all under 25 years old, all American and the product of American developmental racing series (though Kimball has also raced in Europe), and they have full-time rides with solid teams, not to mention full-time funding?
Who would have thought of this a year ago, let alone six months ago?
I'm not sure what I'm more amazed by, the idea of American drivers getting a shot in the series, or that there are corporations out there that have finally realized that these guys are worthy of the investment. Then again, I'm not going to question it, either.
The best part about it, is that all of these guys can seriously drive. Hildebrand won the Indy Lights championship in 2009 and reportedly blew Panther away in a test at Phoenix last week, Rahal, well, is Rahal, who at 21 already has major open wheel wins and impressed everywhere he went last year. He has also shown through his ambition, enthusiasm and persistence that he is more and more like his dad ever day in terms of not only driving ability but solid business sense. Kimball, meanwhile, posted eight top-5 finishes in the Lights series a year ago, and finished second in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis last May. And from what I have read he is a runner, which adds to the coolness factor for me.
Good stuff all around, for sure! While I don't think the series needs to be chock full of American drivers to be a success -- give me 25 quality drivers and I honestly could care less where they come from -- I think it is awesome when the opportunity presents itself to get good drivers in the seats. The better and more positive thing to that is the thought that there are young drivers who are out there that choose to follow the path in open wheel racing as opposed to heading straight to NASCAR.
There are a lot of open wheel fans that are going to have a great Christmas. Better yet, we are close to being less than 100 days from the season opener March 27 in St. Petersburg!