In all of the excitement surrounding Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves battling to the end for the IndyCar championship, the three developmental series’ for American open wheel racing may have been overshadowed. However, the Road to Indy has also crowned their champions this month and in one word: they’re young up-and-coming stars of tomorrow.
Yeah, I know, it wasn’t one word, but these budding superstars need more than one word to describe their seasons.
The Indy Lights class is the highest tier of the developmental circuit called the Road to Indy. The winner earns a scholarship that essentially allows them the funding needed for the following year in the ultimate goal of all these young stars: IndyCar. The Indy Lights champion in 2013 is 18 year old rookie Sage Karam from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, which is home to IndyCars most famous family: the Andretti’s.
Karam drove for Andretti Autopsort in the USF2000 series and dominated, winning the 2010 championship easily with nine wins out of 12 events – all at the age of 15. After two solid years in the Star Mazda series (now Pro Mazda), Karam moved to Sam Schmidt Motorsports this season, winning three events and stood on the podium nine times over the 12 race season.
He beat out his teammate, 20 year old Gabby Chaves of Columbia, who had the most podiums this season with 10, but managed to garner only one victory. Third in points went to 21 year old Carloz Munoz of Columbia who won four times in 2013 but had a 12th at Houston; which, along with only five podiums total hurt his chances of claiming the championship. Expect to see both Karam and Munoz in IndyCar next season.
19 year old Matthew Brabham of Australia, by way of Florida, didn’t just win the Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship, he owned it. In what has to be considered the most dominating performance in motorsports for quite some time, Brabham, who is the grandson of legendary Formula One champion Sir Jack Brabham, won 13 of 16 races in 2013. Driving for Andretti Autosport, Matt missed standing on the podium only once this season – at Mosport where he crashed early on.
Finishing second overall behind Brabham was Venezuelan Diego Ferreira of Juncos Racing. The 19 year old was able to grab a victory and 11 podiums in 2013. Third in points was Brabham’s 23 year old teammate Shelby Blackstock of Tennessee, who also had one victory this season.
The 2012 USF2000 champion Brabham will move up to Indy Lights in 2014 and stay with Andretti Autosport. Along with his scholarship funds, he will also have sponsorship from tech company United Fiber & Data.
The first step and one of the most popular classes in the Road to Indy ladder system is the USF2000 series. Its championship in 2013 went to 18 year old Canadian Scott Hargrove from Surrey, British Columbia (two hours north of Seattle). Hargrove held off Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Neil Alberico of California to secure the title.
Hargrove won four times over a 14 race season. 20 year old Alberico had six victories but three finishes 28th or worse ruined the Californian’s chance at winning the title. Another 18 year old Canadian, Garett Grist of Andretti Autosport, was third overall in the point standings while earning one victory along the way.
Expect these mostly unknown names to be common place before long.
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