If you were to buy stock in a young driver, who would it be? Hinch? Rahal? Hildebrand? Newgarden? All excellent choices, each will win races, and each has legitimate shot at championships and Indianapolis 500 victories in their future.
If I were a betting man, I know exactly who I'd buy into.
He's a Firestone Indy Lights veteran. No, it's not Josef Newgarden.
He's a California kid. I'm not talking about JR Hildebrand.
He's in his second year of big car experience. Nope, not Hinch either.
He drives for Chip Ganassi. No, Graham isn't the guy.
Coming in at a much cheaper price than the aforementioned drivers, the best return on investment may come in the form of Charlie Kimball.
He doesn't have the last name of a Marco Andretti or a Graham Rahal, and doesn't show the personality of a James Hinchcliffe. He's not as prominent as a Ryan Hunter-Reay, and hasn't achieved as much as a JR Hildebrand or Josef Newgarden, each with a Firestone Indy Lights title.
Struggling in his rookie season with just two top-10 finishes, a 9th and a 10th, Kimball has shown much more speed in 2012. Earning a 9th in St. Pete and back-to-back 8th place finishes at Brazil and Indianapolis, he dropped out with a mechanical issue in Barber and was running very competitively in Long Beach before another failure.
Starting 9th in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and running in the 6th position from lap 5 to 19, Kimball dropped back to 15th on lap 20. He ran no lower than 11th and as high as 3rd through lap 79, before dropping out on lap 80 while running 6th with a gearbox failure exiting the pits. He would finish 18th.
Is Kimball a bit of a long shot compared to Graham, JR, or Hinch, sure, but he's got a lot of things going for him.
To be successful a driver you have to have a stable ride. And nowadays to have a ride you have to have funding. Charlie's got that. Not only does he have a sponsor that was with him for two Firestone Indy Lights seasons before moving him up to the IZOD IndyCar Series, Novo Nordisk stuck around signing a multi-year extension with Charlie and CGR Teams this past off season. Oh, by the way, they're not just some everyday, fly by the night company slapping a name on a sidepod. Novo Nordisk has, brace yourself, actually activated the sponsorship, running lengthy commercials highlighting the car, technology, and most importantly driver on various networks and times throughout the season.
Charlie is with a pretty solid team, too. The anchor squad for Honda, Chip Ganassi just ran 1-2 collecting over 3.5 million dollars in the worlds greatest race. They've hogged the last four season championships and three of the last 5 Indianapolis 500 victories.
Out-qualifying both Franchitti and Dixon at Indianapolis, the 27-year old Stanford acceptee, and son of a Formula 1 engineer and Indy 500-wining car designer, will be one to watch in the coming races. Quietly becoming a rising star in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Jump on the bandwagon, there's plenty of room, but it's pulling away fast.