Twelve American Drivers To Contest the 100th Anniversary Indy 500

SPEEDWAY, IN: Of the 40 drivers currently entered in the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, it comes as a bit of a surprise to realize that only twelve are Americans.

The reasons that this situation exists can be endlessly debated, and isn’t really much fun. Instead, let’s take a look at the “Red, White and Blue Twelve” that will be attempting to qualify for the 100th Race this weekend: (USA USA USA!!!)

1. #4: J.R. Hildebrand, Sausalito, Ca: National Guard Panther Racing: Rookie J.R. is a five time winner in the Indy Lites series, and also a veteran of the tough A-1 Grand Prix series. Hildebrand seems very focused and, with the talent of Panther Racing and the knowledge of teammate and fellow American Buddy Rice behind him, J.R. appears to be a leading contender for Rookie of the Year.

2. #7: Danica Patrick, Roscoe, IL: Team GoDaddy: The only female to ever win a major open-wheel auto race, Miss Patrick’s story is well known to all. But, what is not known is if this will be Danica’s last Indy 500. With a great opportunity in NASCAR apparently available, Patrick has a tough decision coming. Will this be her final opportunity to fullfill her dream of a “500” victory? And, if she should manage to win, will NASCAR still be as appealing to her? Stay tuned.

3. #11: Davey Hamilton, Nampa, Idaho: HP/Dreyer&Reinbold Racing: Davey is the sentimental favorite of many oval track fans, and rightly so. The supermodified veteran will always be remembered for the horrific injuries he sustained in a IndyCar race at Texas in 2001. After years of re-hab, Davey had to refund a huge insurance settlement to be able to return to racing. No one can question his love and commitment to the sport. Go Davey!

4. #20: Scott Speed, Manteca, CA: Dragon/Fuzzy’s Vodka: Scott Speed; what a great name for a racer! After becoming a world champion go-kart driver, Speed came up through the Red Bull driver development program and made it all the way to F-1. Unfortunately for him, his teammate was future World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and Scott found himself on the short end. Red Bull then shuffled Speed to NASCAR for two years but, again, positive results were hard to come by. Can Scott Speed find his niche in IndyCar? It should be fun to watch.

5. #27: Marco Andretti, Nazareth, PA: Team Venom: Michael’s son wants to be a chip off the old block, but can it happen? After a rousing rookie run to a near photo finish with winner Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006, Marco has found trouble in achieving consistent results. But, let’s not give up on him just yet; Marco is still only 24 years old, and has his Dad and a great team behind him. The next great Andretti may be about to bloom.

6. #28: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Boco Raton, FL: Team DHL: 30 year old Ryan has already won a pair of IndyCar races and is engaged to marry Robbie Gordon’s super-hot sister. What more do you want? Ryan also scored a win in the old CART series, and was the IndyCar series Rookie of the Year in 2007. Hunter-Reay knows how to get to Victory Lane, and could surprise a lot of folks on Race Day.

7. #38: Graham Rahal, New Albany, OH: Service Central Ganassi: Son of 1986 Indy Champ Bobby, young Rahal has by far his best shot at success at Indy as part of the mighty Chip Ganassi group. Graham has shown moments of brilliance during his four year IndyCar career, and hopefully is ready to run 500 strong miles. If he can keep his cool, Rahal may have the best shot at victory among the American contingent.

8. #43: John Andretti, Indianapolis, IN: Team Window World: Another sentimental favorite, Mario’s nephew sports an Indy career that reaches back 24 years, with a fifth place in 1991 as his best Speedway result. If John can pull it off, he’ll prove that nice guys can finish first. Sure, it’s a long shot but we can dream, can’t we?

9. #44: Buddy Rice, Phoenix, AZ: Panther Racing: Buddy drove a great race to put Bobby (Rahal) & Dave (Letterman) in Victory Lane in 2005, and then things turned sour for the Indy Champ. It’s happened before. Now, Rice has a shot at redemption, and a lot of us are betting he won’t waste it. Buddy is a front-runner, and plans to remind everybody of that fact on Race Day.

10. #67: Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, IN: Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing: Ed’s step-dad (Tony George) used to run the Speedway, and helped Ed learn his trade. Carpenter honed his oval track skills in USAC, and seems to have developed a special touch at the big oval. If Ed can find Victory Lane, it would be reminiscent of a “500” long ago, when another hometown boy, Joe Dawson, scored a popular win in 1912. Don’t laugh; stranger things have happened.

11. #99: Townsend Bell, San Luis Obispo, CA: Herbalife/Schmidt: Why this guy doesn’t have a full-time ride is hard to figure. He won the Indy Lights championship in 2001, and seemed to be on the fast track to stardom. Bell finished a strong fourth at the Speedway in 2009, and never seems to put a wheel wrong. He’s smart, good with sponsors and stands on the gas. What more could you ask for?

12. #83: Charlie Kimball, Camarillo, CA: NovoLog Team Ganassi: The other member of Chip Ganassi’s “junior team” (along with Graham Rahal), rookie Charlie brings an excellent resume to the Speedway. Kimball moved successfully through most of the lower formulas to achieve his shot at Indy with one of the best teams on the grounds.

So, there you have it: twelve Americans ready to make a run at victory in “The Most Important Race in History”. One Hundred years ago, Spartanburg, PA-born Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile International Sweepstakes; it would be kind of nice if the win could stay on our shores a century later.

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