It still has the “names” of Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti – it has two Indy Lights champions in JR Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden. Collectively those four have unfulfilled potential that could take them to the next level. Charlie Kimball is now finding his footing beyond just being known as “the driver with diabetes” and Ed Carpenter's rise as an owner/driver is a noble one in modern racing – along with former drivers Eddie Cheever and Bobby Rahal, Carpenter's a rare breed.
There's the Brazilian lifers – Helio and TK, and now TK and Rubens – and the underrated vets Oriol Servia and Alex Tagliani who are due so much more than just one career win for either of them. The two Frenchmen in the series, Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais, are both crazy talented and unafraid of holding back their true opinions. Where's Perrier to sponsor Pagenaud, considering he's done a Jean Girard imitation? Justin Wilson is one of the best drivers in the series, yet is virtually invisible outside the realm of the series boundaries.
Lastly, there's Hinch. Hinch has been a self-made marketing genius going back to his initial season of Formula Atlantic in 2006 – “Hinchtown” as a brand was something James and a select few others did on their own, and only now, after more than a half decade of work to get this far, it's being refined thanks to the support of one of this series' few major paying sponsors.
One of the biggest roles of a sanctioning body is promoting the right stories and personalities of its product, across the proper channels. While a strategy involving Hinch is great – and can be great, for the series going forward – it can't be the only strategy, as Bernard intimates.
One video promo that IndyCar did very well this year was when the rookie class of 2011 – Hinchcliffe, Hildebrand and Kimball – all poked fun at each other in explaining who they were. And Newgarden's “Incognito” series has been brilliant – if disappointing – because it speaks to the greater problem that the guy who won the championship of Triple-A is far from a household name. That, more than anything, is one of the biggest issues why this hard-working, mature rookie and his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team have run blank sidepods most of this season (SEE VIDEOS BELOW).
With the veterans on the downsides of their careers, IndyCar is well-positioned from a future talent standpoint – not just in its current ladder series graduates, but also with some of its Mazda Road to Indy drivers (Connor De Phillippi, Jack Hawksworth, Spencer Pigot, Tristan Vautier and others come to mind) – to create a new swath of promoting the personalities in this series.
IndyCar has way more than just one driver to showcase going forward, and it needs to ensure it does just that. I just hope the “Mayor of Hinchtown” doesn't revoke my citizenship for suggesting he not be the only focus.
"Inside IndyCar with James Hinchcliffe" - introducing James Hinchcliffe, JR Hildebrand, and Charlie Kimball.
"Newgarden Incognito" - Josef Newgarden at Long Beach.
"Newgarden Incognito 2" - Josef Newgarden at Texas.