The Indy Lights 2012 season is eight races in with just four to go and so far, the top four drivers have won all the races to date. Nine drivers have run in all eight events this season. But as the top feeder series for America's premier open wheel division, notably there are no Americans racing on a regualr basis in Indy Lights.
The points leader is 27 year old Esteban Guerrieri of Argentina who has had six podiums in eight races with a series leading three victories in 2012. Originally, he had good success in Formula Renault. This is his second season in Indy Lights driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Last year, he finished second overall with three wins, six podiums and six poles out of 14 events.
Following closely behind Guerrieri this season is 22 year old Frenchman Tristan Vautier who is in his first season of Indy Lights - and he's only 18 points back of the points leader. He's won two events in 2012 and if not for a crash at the last race, he might be atop the standings. Like Guerrieri, Vautier also raced Formula Renault before coming to the U.S. to run in Star Mazda, the stepping stone for Indy Lights. Again, like Guerrieri, Vautier drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
33 points back of first place in third is 22 year old Sebastian Saavedra. The Colombian first raced in Indy Lights when he was 19, finishing third in the points. He has one victory so far in 2012 along with five podiums. During the 2011 season, Saavedra drove for Conquest Racing in IndyCar but never finished in the Top 10. He's driving for AFS Andretti Autosport in the Indy Light series.
The other winner this season in Indy Lights is Gustavo Yacaman, another Colombian who has two victories in 2012 and stands fourth in the points. Victor Carbone of Brazil is currently fifth in the standings and has never finished outside the top six. Rounding out the Top 10 is Carlos Munoz of Colombia, Oliver Webb from England, David Ostella of Canada, Juan Pablo Garcia of Mexico and Jorge Goncalvez from Venezuela ... but, as you can see, no Americans.
The highest ranked American is 30 year old Mike Larrison of Indiana who drove three times this year and is 15th in points. 50 year old Darryl Willis from Texas is right behind Larrison in 16th and is the only other American to have driven in three Indy Light events in 2012. So where are the young American drivers?
Chase Austin from Kansas is 22 years old and ran two events in 2012 but doesn't seem to have anything steady after looking like a child star in stock cars when Hendrick Motorsports signed him eight years ago (source - Hendrick Motorsports) - but nothing much came of it. Austin did finish a respectable 10th and eighth in the two Indy Lights events he entered this season.
23 year old Bryan Clauson out of Indiana was a young phenom from the USAC sprint and midget ranks and tried his hand at stock car racing but never caught on. He qualified for this year's Indy 500, driving an extra entry supplied by Sarah Fisher and finished 30th. Clauson drove a half-a-dozen Indy Lights events in 2011 doing quite well but only chose oval tracks and none of the road races. Other young American drivers to take a stab at Indy Lights this year are Troy Castaneda of California, Floridian Nick Andries and Brandon Wagner from Indiana.
Now, it should be noted that the car count is generally down in Indy Lights with only 11 cars on the starting grid at Toronto. Andries is the only young American with any street/road course experience and that could be the main reason for a lack of competitive American racers in Indy Lights. But remember, the Indy Lights champion last year was a 20 year old American named Josef Newgarden who has moved on to IndyCars.
So for now, Colombians and several other non-American drivers continue to dominate the series. The Indy Lights next race is Edmonton this Saturday (July 21).
Sources - Racing Reference, IndyCar
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.
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