Monday, July 8, 2013

OWR: Shooting Stars - 2013 Edition

Columbian Carlos Munoz led the IndyCar Rookie contingent this May at Indianapolis. (Image source:
Certainly I’m NO soothsayer of prodigious rising Open Wheel Racing talent, yet whilst mulling over my previous three picks for future Formula 1 Stardom; of which the least likely ‘Juan picked by Mwah has now landed his seat in the rarefied climes of Formula 1, i.e.; Esteban Gutierrez, who’s now driving for the Sauber F1 Team this year... While thee Young ‘Wicky, a la Robert Wickens, and Alexander Rossi both have ascended to F1 “Simulator Jockey” (test/reserve driver) status, albeit Rossi did actually partake in one Friday morning Free Practise-1 session last year at Barcelona for Caterham. As Rossi’s now contesting the GP2 series for the Leafield outfit and will also participate in this year’s forthcoming 24 Heurs du Mans whilst Wickens is currently plying his trade in the DTM for Mercedes, as I thought the former World Series by Renault champion would be the first into F1...

Thus, with it being a new year, resolutions ‘N all, ‘Whale at least when I began scribblin’ this; SHEISA! Can it already be June and half of the year gone? OOPS! It’s now July and thus the title seemed well suited to some ‘lil ‘Ol Holiday us Yanks just celebrated...

Hence, I thought it high time to take a crack at this once again, although I’m not really going too far out on a limb, and probably should leave it to our Junior Open Wheel Talent (JOWT) spotter Ryan instead, right?

Thus here goes nothing, (In a story that’s quickly morphing into another monster) as these are my picks for drivers of tomorrow to watch out for today - while I’m most enamored by the relatively unknown Tristan Nunez, who I’d ‘LUV to see get snapped up by the powers-to-be in IndyCar, i.e.; Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, or upcoming Playuhs’ like Sam Schmidt or Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing!

And as I’ve already noted, time is simply screaming by this year like most, as I’ve only managed to trip across one GP2 race being aired upon NBCSN whilst not catching anything on GP3 nor having had time to pay attention to the lower rungs of the vaunted “Road to Indy,” which I sincerely hope they fix the apathetic state of Indy Lights immediately! Although I’ve already witnessed its demise twice; know at least once when it was the Dayton Indy Lights during the CART era... 

Tristan Nunez
Country: USA
Age: 17 (10/31/95)

Its hard to believe that I ‘learn-ED ‘bout this aspiring Sports Car driver just shy of one year now, as Mary Ellen read a nice story to Mwah about him in a tiny “Fish wrap” newspaper in Eugene, Oregon as we awaited the arrival of ‘“Panda” from Burning Man at the Train Station. As the Floridian teenager was then knocking upon the door of winning the 2012 Prototype Lights championship, which he subsequently took on the back of eleven wins in his rookie season!

Nunez then was named a Team USA scholarship recipient and capped off his season by taking victory in the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy race - besting the likes of Peter Dempsey, (presumably the same Dempsey who just won the Indy Lights Freedom 100 in the Speedway’s closest ever finish - a four-wide photo finish by 0.0026-seconds! Not to mention also being a three time Walter Hayes Trophy winner) while Tristan has now turned “Pro” at the tender age of 17 and is contesting the Grand Am’s GX category as a Mazda “Works” driver along with contesting the ALMS’s Prototype Lights Challenge class, as Y’all can read all about I-T in his very thorough About section by clicking here.

Yet alas, Nunez seems solely focused upon a Sports Car career over the possibility of running the Indianapolis 500 one day, having just notched his debutant GX class victory aboard the Mazda 6 Skyactive Diesel racecar, ironically on The Captain’s (Roger Penske) home turf...

Mathew Brabham
Country: USA
Age: 19 (2/25/94)

Obviously I’m not the only one who thinks he’s got some talent, eh? As the 2012 US F2000 champion was promptly snapped up by Andretti Autosport for its assult on the 2013 Pro Mazda Series, while I believe he was also a Team USA Scholarship recipient a la Tristan Nunez and has continued his winning ways in this season’s Pro Mazda campaign.

And yep, if you’re thinking that last name sounds familiar, Mathew is indeed the grandson of Australian triple F1 world champion Sir Jack ‘Blackjack Brabham, as his father Geoff was a four-time IMSA GTP champion along with making multiple starts in the Indy 500...

Chris Yano
Country: USA
Age: 34 (4/30/79)

Hey, yuhs gotta root for the O-L-D guy right? As Yano’s a relatively late bloomer at the age of 34 who’s chasing his dreams of making it to 16th & Georgetown one day as a driver by cutting his teeth as a rookie in this year’s Pro Mazda Series. Y’all can check him out by clicking here.

Country: USA
Age: 18 (12/9/94)

Another driver who’s growing on Mwah, although I haven’t seen him race yet; I should get the chance finally at this year’s Freedom 100. But what I like best about the miniscule “Kindergardener” is his attitude & personality, which I think his driving talent matches? As he’ll be on the steep end of the learning curve in the Indy Lights this coming year...

Robin Frijns
Country: Netherlands
Age: 21 (8/7/91)

Know very little about this driver other than it was entertaining hearing NBCSN’s ‘Wee Willie Buxom, aka Will Buxton ask Lotus F1 Simulator Jockey Jerome d'Ambrosio is it Frihns or “Freens” to which Jerome said it’s the same person; Hooah!

Yet this aspiring ‘Neederlander has vaulted up the Open Wheel Racing “Feeder” ranks quickly, having won the Eurocup Renault 2.0 title on his first crack in 2011 before barging his way into the 2012 World Series by Renault title amid controversy upon ‘Turfing off title rival Jules Bianchi during the final race!

As Frijns now firmly fixes his sights upon F1, having been signed as Sauber’s test and reserve driver whilst keeping his reflexes sharp in the GP2 series by having taken over Conor Daly’s seat and promptly scoring his debutant GP2 win for the brand new Hilmer Motorsport concern...

Esteban Guerrieri
Country: Argentina
Age: 28 (1/19/85)

I really like this Argentinean’s machismo, who sometimes isn’t “Politically Correct” but can definitely hustle a car and drive the proverbial wheels off of it! As Estaban was one of eventual Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier’s fiercest rivals - and hopefully will be back once again as I was hoping he’d become Sam Schmidt’s lead gun for the Indy Lights title this year, but apparently fell afoul of that ominous lack of funding thingy that’s been sweeping the Paddock’s now for several seasons, as Esteban has fallen afoul of this multiple times, including lack of funding for a KV Racing Technology seat in Indy Cars and F1 with Manor Motorsports which became the Virgin F1 Team and then rebranded as Marussia F1.

And while I have NO idea where he’s gone off to? It’s a shame he’s not racing Stateside after having finished runner-up in Indy Lights the past two years respectively behind Sam Schmidt Motorsports stable mates Joseph Newgarden and Tristan Vautier (by a scant 8pts) who’ve both gone onto IndyCar careers!

According to his ‘WICKEDpedia page, Esteban has returned to his homeland to take up participating in this year’s Touring Cars Turismo Carretera aboard a Dodge for Oil Competizion...

Antonio Felix da Costa
Country: Portugal
Age: 21 (8/31/91)

This young Portuguese rising star first made a name for himself by winning the 2009 Renault 2.0 NEC Cup before garnering further attention by winning the prestigious Macau street race last year, along with notching up an impressive four wins during his debutant World Series by Renault campaign - now contesting the full season with the newly formed Arden-Caterham team.

as a Red Bull Junior driver, da Costa along with Frihns both took turns behind the wheel of the dominant Red Bull chassis at last year’s Young Drivers test in Abu Dhabi and I’m guessing that he and Frihns potentially could be battling over one of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s seats for the 2014 season?

Carlos Munoz 
Country: Columbia
Age: 21 (2/2/92)

This soft spoken and very humble Columbian vaulted to the mainstream’s attention after his stirring debut at Mother Speedway, where not only did he out qualify his four other Andretti Autosport teammates, i.e.; reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso, but also finished ahead of A-L-L of them en route to Rookie Of the Year honours with an outstanding runner-up finish to Tony Kanaan.

Although Munoz didn’t look very happy after the Freedom 100, where he’d started from Pole and led the majority of the race before getting picked off by those closely trailing him en route to the closest finish ever at Indianapolis! Its funny thinking that his current “Day Job” is in the Indy Lights and surely he’s now gotta be odds on favourite to win the title this year?

Jack Hawksworth
Country: UK (Great Britain)
Age: 22 (2/28/91)

Only learned about this driver nicknamed “Union Jack” late last year after he’d shattered the then Star Mazda record books on his way to the title in his rookie season by scoring the series most wins, poles and fastest laps in a season and now looks set to battle against Carlos Munoz for the Indy Lights title. (Well at least he did earlier this season, as apparently he’s struggling on the Ovals right now - having even gone so far as to switch race engineer...)

Conor Daly
Country: USA
Age: 21 (12/15/91)

Can’t leave out Conor, who although just had a very trying “Month;” err Week of May, nevertheless did complete his rookie Indy 500 outing with a y place finish before going back to his “Day Job” as a GP3 racecar driver... As Conor, like many, have aspirations of racing in Formula 1 one day in the near future...

And I’m most certain there’s countless others whom I mean NO disrespect to by not naming, with the likes of Felipe Nasr, Marcus Eriksson and Alice Powell coming to mind, not to mention any upcoming Hosers from Up North Eh! (‘KuhNucks) As thee Mayor ‘O Hinchtown shouldn’t be expected to carry the flame solo in Indy Cars once ‘TAG finally departs, eh? And thus if Y’all know of any aspiring Open Wheel racers needing mention, please leave me their name in the comments section below...

Although I did happen to spot this awhile ago via Ryan’s JOWT blog, profiling an aspiring KuhNuck driver named Stefan Rzadzinski

, who’s sometimes known as “Steve Radd,” check I-T out here;

Stefan Rzadzinski takes “Steve Radd” onthe Road to Indy