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Previewing the 2018 IndyCar season from the perspective of those nine new drivers with a combined total experience of the average couch sitting race fan. Alarmingly, rookies will make up a full third of the IndyCar field this season.
Featured first are a pair of teams – one new, one not – opting for rookie teammates of all things. Talk about letting the children lead!
Rene Binder is the first Austrian IndyCar driver since Joseph Jagersberger in 1911, who started the inaugural Indianapolis 500, then called the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race. Binder’s Juncos Racing team is also brand spanking new, moving up to the big league from Indy Lights, where they won the championship last year. The 26 year old will share the partial season ride with his rookie teammate and Lights champ, Kyle Kaiser. Why Binder, you ask? Because he brings sponsorship with him in the form of Binderholz.
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Though his surname may make one think of Austria, Kaiser’s the American part of Juncos Racing and has enjoyed some success. Like Binder he’ll have a part time schedule sharing the ride for half the team’s eight race schedule, including both oval tracks. The soon to be 22 year old has no sponsorship as of yet, though he does receive some funding from the series due to winning the Lights championship last year. He tested the Juncos car at Phoenix recently with less than stellar results, but did manage at least to keep it off the wall.
Canuck rookie Zach DeMelo occupies Dale Coyne’s ride buyer seat which he’ll be sharing with fellow new comer Pietro Fittipaldi. The 19 year old Quebecer’s big league debut actually came in the ’17 Sonoma season finale for RLL where he finished 17th, five spots ahead of his older countryman Hinch. DeMelo’s the one driver on the list with a modicum of experience behind the wheel – one whole road race.
Photo from espn.f1.com
Finally, the legacy. Pietro Fittipaldi is grandson of two time Indy 500 winner and sip of milk tradition breaker Emo. The 21 year old’s presence makes three Brazilians in the series this year. He’ll occupy Dale Coyne’s ride buying seat for races when DeMelo’s off practicing his curling. Significantly, the two will be teamed with Sebastien Bourdais and sharing the car Ed Jones drove to several strong results last year, so it can be done.
Handicapping the Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 2 will be out soon. Check back for further investigation into IndyCar’s incredibly inexperienced.