Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Another New Face on The Grid

There's no other way to say it, this year's IndyCar rookie class is stacked. 

It features a diverse set of drivers: some came up through the Road to Indy ladder, others have European experience, including in the F1 feeder series. They come from all over the world, and represent a new class of young drivers who could make up the backbone of IndyCar at some point.

Pretty stout, right? Let's add one more name to that impressive rookie lineup.

After a solid test at Mid-Ohio last July, AJ Foyt Racing was so impressed with Tatiana Calderon that they have tabbed her to pilot the No. 11 car on road and street courses for 2022, acting as a teammate to Indy Lights champ Kyle Kirkwood, who will carry the famous No. 14 in a full-season effort. 

The 28-year-old Colombian spent last year driving Super Formula races in Japan (the same series that gave us Alex Palou three years ago) while competing in sports cars and acting as a test driver for Alfa Romeo in F1. Calderon may also be familiar to some Road to Indy fans, as she drove for two seasons (2010-11) with Juncos Racing in the Star Mazda series.

This is a really exciting hire. Calderon has experience in several types of cars, competed with some of the best drivers in the world, and has ample testing experience. Plus it's another (pretty much) full-time AJFR entry, which will be a huge help to Kirkwood as he now has a teammate to work with and exchange ideas. They will get their first chance to collaborate tomorrow when they test at Sebring.

I'm not sure how Calderon will fare this season, but if anything she will definitely hold her own. As we discovered with drivers like Palou and Robert Wickens recently that drivers with experience in many disciplines helps. While Calderon didn't have the success those two guys did, the background she brings to the table will be an asset.

And, yeah, I'll admit it, it's great to have a female driver back on the grid again. Between its drivers and tracks, IndyCar is the most diverse series in the world, and this just reflects it even more. Given Calderon's background, who knows, maybe it will inspire other women who are grinding away in Europe to think about giving IndyCar a try.

So the question becomes, if Calderon isn't driving the ovals, who does? Given his history with the team, I'd have to figure Charlie Kimball for Indy, and possibly JR Hildebrand in a third car.

Other than that, you know who I think they should call for the ovals? Sage Karam.

Yeah I beat the drum for Sage and I'm gonna keep doing it. He's tied up for the 500, of course, but he's had success at Iowa, has raced Texas before in 2015 and would probably run at Gateway. For the love of all that is holy, can someone give him a solid chance?

Back for one more (and maybe one more after that, you never know)

Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed today that 2013 Indy 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan will be back in the saddle for the team at the 500, carrying sponsorship from the American Legion. Kanaan finished 10th in last year's race and should he qualify this year (which of course he will) it will be his 21st start, tying him with Gary Bettenhausen for the eighth most career starts by a driver.

(Editor's note: His countryman, Helio Castroneves, goes on his drive for five and will make his 22nd start, tying him with the greatest pinch hitter and Bump Day driver ever, George Snider. Don't know much about Ziggy? Read my post on him from 2011.)

Also confirming he will be on track in May was Ed Carpenter. Carpenter will be looking to make start No. 19, which ties him with Al Unser Jr., Bobby Unser, and, as of this writing, Scott Dixon, who is likely to earn his spot in the 20-time club in May.

The Rumble Strip Podcast

Speaking of Kyle Kirkwood, I discussed my thoughts on his ride with AJ Foyt Racing, as well as what I think of his prospects for 2022. You can listen here. 

An updated episode will be dropping tomorrow!

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