This article originally appeared at INDYCAR Nation on February 29, 2012. To view More Front Wing’s exclusive INDYCAR Nation content as soon as it’s released, visit indycarnation.indycar.com.
It’s been a complaint of INDYCAR’s fan base for years – decades, even. Nobody hires drivers from the U.S. anymore. There are too many foreigners. There’s no system to attract Americans to open-wheel racing.
Fans who like their sporting allegiances with a patriotic twist can rejoice. These problems have most emphatically been solved for 2012.
The return of Chevrolet to INDYCAR racing has created an environment where teams can have not only American owners and American drivers but also American-built powerplants.
When Ed Carpenter set out to start his own team, he never lost sight of his goal to land a Chevrolet engine. Now, the most recent IZOD IndyCar Series race winner is poised to give Midwest short track racing fans a success story to follow in the big leagues.
And Panther Racing, long touted as an American operation, has cemented that position by putting the Bowtie behind sophomore Californian J.R. Hildebrand.
Andretti Autosport’s operation, scaled back to three cars for 2012, will put Chevrolet engines behind two established Americans, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay, as well as the 2011 Rookie of the Year, James Hinchcliffe.
(Hinchcliffe, of course, is a Canadian. But give him time. In much the same style as his Canuck predecessor, Paul Tracy, it won’t be long before the Mayor of Hinchtown has American fans so enthralled that they’ll forget he’s not one of their own.)
And although Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s engine is a Honda (and let’s be grateful that they have an engine at all!), it’s impossible to leave them off this list. The Little Team That Could defied all odds and found victory lane at the end of the 2011 season with Midwest belle Sarah Fisher at the helm. This year, their car will be piloted by rookie Josef Newgarden – who is not only another American for fans to cheer for but also demonstrates that the Road to Indy system is beginning to fulfill its purpose by bringing young American talent into the ranks.
Add some rivals into the mix for these teams to battle against – KV Racing Technology, for example, seems quite happy to don the black hats and dub themselves Team Latin America – and U.S. fans have plenty to be excited about leading into the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
Wave Old Glory long and proud, American INDYCAR fans, and hang onto your hats. For you, the racing is about to get even more exciting!