Indy 500 2012: Young Stars Who Need a Strong Showing at Showcase Race

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2012

FORT WORTH, TX - MAY 21:  IZOD IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe reads the name printed on a raffle ticket during a drawing for a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro on May 21, 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Camaro was awarded to a Northwest ISD student for their outstanding academic efforts and attendance throughout the school year.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

IndyCar Racing needs a new face to build the series around, and that face has to make its presence felt at the Indianapolis 500. 

At the risk of sounding like something out of Star Wars, Indy Racing needs a new hope. Danica Patrick was that driver when she arrived on the scene in 2005. She made quite an impression by finishing fourth in her first Indianapolis 500 and brought new publicity along with her. 

While there isn't likely to be another mainstream draw in this year's Indianapolis 500 field like Patrick, the field does have a few intriguing names who can take the circuit by storm with a strong showing at this year's race. 

Here are the names to keep an eye on as the action gets underway this Sunday from Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

James Hinchcliffe, Starting in Row 1

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 18:  James Hinchcliffe prepares to drive the #27 Team car during Indianapolis 500 practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 18, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2011 Rookie of the Year had even more pressure put on his shoulders coming into the year when he took over Danica Patrick's old car for Andretti Racing.

He has yet to win an IndyCar race, but his performance just keeps getting better. 

After posting seven top-10 finishes last season, Hinchcliffe has finished no worse than sixth through four races this year. He has shown the consistency you need to be a star in racing.

All that's left is tasting victory on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. 

Josef Newgarden, Starting in Row 3

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 19:  Josef Newgarden the driver  of the Sarah Fisher Hartman/Dollar General car prepares for his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Newgarden is a newcomer to the IndyCar series and this will be his first start in the Indianapolis 500. He's clearly still trying to figure out how to handle the speed and torque of these cars, but there's reason for optimism as he prepares for this race. 

Last year, Newgarden was the top driver for the Indy Lights Racing Circuit. He won five of the 14 races he entered, including the Firestone Freedom 100, which takes place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Obviously, there are significant differences between a 100 and 500-mile race, but the track runs the same. He has star potential once he gets a feel for the new cars, and there's no better way to introduce yourself to the world than an Indianapolis 500 win. 

Ana Beatriz, Starting in Row 5

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 12:  Ana Beatriz of Brazil driver of the #20 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara Indy Light celebrates after winning the Firestone Indy Lights Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 12, 2008 at the Nashville Superspeedway in Nashville, Tennessee.  (
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Beatriz is not on this list simply because she is a woman; she is an incredibly talented driver who is waiting to have that one breakthrough race on the IndyCar circuit. 

In two previous Indianapolis 500 races, Beatriz has finished 21st both times. She's not commanding the car as well as she did in Indy Lights Series, but she is still young and learning with each race. 

Getting Beatriz near the top of the leaderboard would be one of the best stories of the weekend and give IndyCar the new face it needs to lead the series.