For most in motorsports, their goal or dreams are to be drinking the milk in the winner's circle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, after being victorious in the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing', the Indianapolis 500. For three native Californians, their dream may come true when the checkered flag waves on May 27th.
One veteran driver and two second-year up-and-coming stars are representing the Golden State this May in preparation for the biggest race they will ever run. Californians J.R. Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball and Townsend Bell will give their all on behalf of the United States' most populous state. Here's a look at each one.
When you leave San Francisco, at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge is a picturesque town with wonderful views of the San Francisco Bay called Sausalito. Hildebrand was born there and a half an hour away at Infineon Raceway, he cut his teeth as a young teenager racing karts. At age 18, he practically owned the U.S. F2000 championship, winning 12 of 14 events. This steppingstone catapulted him to the Atlantic series where he won Rookie-of-the-year.
In 2008, he had moved over to Indy Lights where eventually he won the championship in 2009. That got him a shot at IndyCar where he would almost make history. As a rookie last season at the Indy 500, Hildebrand qualified on the fourth row and was competitive all day; plus, a late pit stop for fuel would allow him to eventually have the lead. He took the white flag as he entered the final turn but a slower car, fellow Californian Charlie Kimball, forced Hildebrand up into the marbles where he lost control, crashing at the front stretch. The late Dan Wheldon, who was several seconds behind, passed him as they approached the checkers with Hildebrand in a disappointing second place (source - YouTube).
The 24 year old is a bright individual, having turned down a shot at going to college at MIT. He has been fairly competitive this season and sits seventh in the points, currently driving for Panther Racing and powered by Chevrolet.
Although he was born in southern England, the Californian grew up in the Ventura County community of Camarillo. Charlie is unique, being the only active driver with Type 1 diabetes (source - Diabetes Health).
His father, Gordon Kimball, was a mechanical engineer, assisting in building engines that won at Indy in the '80s; plus, he worked for McLaren, Benetton and Ferrari in Formula One.
His first big venture and success occurred when he was in Europe, winning races in Formula Ford and Formula 3. He came back to the U.S. to drive Indy Lights in 2009 - in 2010, he finished fourth in the final standings. Kimball finished a respectable eighth in 2011 at the Indy 500.
The 27 year old is another very bright driver who turned down a chance of going to Stanford but instead pursued racing. Kimball has had some highs and lows so far in 2012 - he is 15th in the point standings while driving a Honda-powered racecar for Chip Ganassi.
He was born in San Francisco, but has lived most of his life on the Central Coast of California in San Luis Obispo (see related articles). He started racing with karts in '87. He went to school and then at the age of 21 decided to be a full-time racer. He started winning in Formula Dodge and then Barber Dodge (formerly Barber Saab). Bell moved to Indy Lights where he was second in 2000 and then victorious with a championship the following year at age 26.
He tried his hand at Europe and F3000 where he was able to find the podium and also become a test-driver for Formula One.
Bell studied economics at UC Santa Barbara. He eventually married, becoming a part-time racer from then on. He's a pit-reporter for NBC Sports in the IndyCar series. He finished 26th last year at Indy after starting fourth and will be driving a Honda-powered racecar for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Indianapolis this May.
Hopefully, these drivers from California can follow in the footsteps of other great Californians who were victorious at historic Indy like Johnnie Parsons, Troy Ruttman, Bill Vukovich, Bob Sweikert, Pat Flaherty, Sam Hanks, Jim Rathmann, Roger Ward, Parnelli Jones and Rick Mears - all winners of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It would be quite a feather in the cap for any of the three current drivers to join these grand and distinguished names.
Sources - 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.