This year sees a healthy class of seven newbies who have qualified to contest the world's greatest race. From a NASCAR champion, to a Russian rock guitarist and speedy upstart who grew up across the street from the Andrettis, there's a little something for everyone.
As we rev up for the 98th running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," take a moment to meet this year's crop of fast learners—because everyone needs a rookie to root for. Who's your favorite?
SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #7
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Nicknames: "The Russian" "Mike Allen"
The scoop: The first Russian driver ever to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. A former World Series by Renault champion, in Europe, he had never been to the United States prior to joining IndyCar. He's shown flashes of speed, thus far, but the jury's still out. Guitarist in a Russian rock band. \m/
Suretone Andretti Autosport #26
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Nicknames: "KuBu" "Outlaw" "Double Outlaw"
The scoop: Like a box of chocolates! A NASCAR champion, he currently drives for Tony Stewart's team, in the stock car series. Focus of much attention, this May, he's the first to attempt "The Double" (Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day) in, like, a while. Unforgettably hateful rip on poor TV commentator, Dr. Jerry Punch, in the day, but he's been well behaved, this month.
Always Evolving Racing KV Racing Technology #33
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
Nickname: "Big Jimmy" [???]
The scoop: A late add to give KVRT a 4-car Indy 500 lineup, Davison's been around: A couple of Indy Lights wins, at least one IndyCar start for Coyne at Mid-Ohio, Rolex Series, Carrera Porsche Cup, and so on. Racing is in Davison's genes—his grandfather Lex Davison won the Australian Grand Prix four times, while his father Jon raced Formula 5000. Can't speak to current status, but he once dated Tony George's daughter, Lauren.
Energee Bryan Herta Autosport/BBM with Curb Agajanian #98
Hometown: Bradford, England
Nicknames: "The Hawk" "sHAWK and Awe" "J-Hawk"
The scoop: Coming off an admirable season of Indy Lights, he was the surprise pick of Bryan Herta for a full season of IndyCar competition. So far, so fast. The kid appears to be good. Here's one: He was so convinced he wouldn't have a race ride for 2014, he nearly tapped out and got his personal trainer's license. Rich, old-world accent...
Cafe de Colombia Dale Coyne Racing #18
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
Nickname: "[your favorite here]"
The scoop: Tested by Panther Racing, then picked up by Dale Coyne, when Panther folded, he's one of four Colombians in this year's '500' field. Four IndyCar starts to his name, a lone top 10 is the highlight. Once drove for a team owned by Formula 1 superstar Kimi Raikkonen. Such a media darling, reckon I've never heard him speak.
Brantley Gilbert/Comfort Revolution Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing #22
Hometown: Nazareth, PA, USA
Nicknames: "SK$" "Kid Karam"
The scoop: High school senior—that's right—Karam is hot off a 2013 Indy Lights championship. His notable performances for Chip Ganassi's sports car program have him in a development deal with the owner, but with four cars already in the Ganassi IndyCar stable, Karam's been farmed-out to Dreyer and Reinbold for the '500.' Sage dates former Indy car driver Gil de Ferran's daughter, Anna.
ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing #41
Hometown: Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England [fancy]
The scoop: The wee Brit stepped out of the sports car shadows to contest the Indy Double of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indy 500 for the legendary SuperTex. He's had a total of four IndyCar starts, with unremarkable results, but has claimed a 24 Hours of Le Mans class win and FIA World Endurance sports car championship. By all reports, a likable chap. Married to a former Miss Indiana and likes to be called, "Marty." [part of that statement is true]
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