Skip to content

Standard six first-timers plus Kurt Busch to fight for Indy 500 rookie glory

May 24, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

Aleshin and Huertas in action. Getty Images

Essentially, there are six traditional rookies, and one rookie in name only for a total of seven first-timers in the 98th Indianapolis 500.

The six, you’d say, standard rookies are Jack Hawksworth, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas, Sage Karam, Martin Plowman and James Davison.

The seventh is 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, whose attempt at the 1,100-mile double is a feat unto itself.

But for the “standard six,” it’s a mix of Indy Lights graduates and European ladder formula drivers who’ve made the move stateside. For both Aleshin and Huertas, Sunday marks their first ever oval race.

The natural transition for the other four exists as all four have past Freedom 100 experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indy Lights. Karam’s third place in 2013 was the best finish by that quartet.

Discovering the speed and tow differential, as well as making their first oval pit stops in the Verizon IndyCar Series, are key adjustments for Lights graduates.

“I felt like I had to learn all over again,” said Karam, who starts 31st. “I transferred the place, and reference points, but that was it.”

Added Hawksworth, who starts 13th, “In Lights it was much easier to follow and you could keep it flat. You get a better draft in Lights. But the draft in IndyCar is much bigger, because there’s a bigger hole punched in the air.”

Busch and Hawksworth, the two highest starting rookies in 12th and 13th, have each had their first unscheduled appointment with the wall this month. Busch admitted for his accident he made a mistake; Hawksworth shook his off rather quickly, and was more concerned about his limited track time (he missed several days of practice).

“You can’t linger on it,” Hawksworth said. “You have to move on and the guys did great to build it back up. It’s been tough more because of the weather, the accident, and the fact we didn’t run on Sunday.”

“You never fully get comfortable,” added Plowman, who rolls off 29th. “The second you do, and you saw what happened with Kurt Busch, and you see his experience level, and you let your guard down and it bites you in the backside. It was a reminder, that although there haven’t been many crashes, bad things can happen to anyone.”

If Busch and Hawksworth have crashed, and Karam nearly crashed despite a ridiculously good save during Carb Day practice, that might leave the other four as those who eventually will crash at IMS… or so goes the saying, anyway.

Aleshin, the Russian rookie, seems to be flirting dangerously with that line of ridiculously fast and ridiculously close to hitting the wall. Huertas is more methodical in his development, but the Colombian rookie has expressed that Turn 1 has been the toughest for him thus far.

Aleshin described that the schedule this month for drivers, especially ones who have never been through the process of the month of May before, is absolutely draining – but worth it.

“If you were to see my schedule, I promise you that you wouldn’t want to be a racing driver,” he opined. “It’s been tough. I have no time to myself at all, but this is good. It shows how important this race is, how much press attention it has, how many spectators are coming. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Davison, the Australian, described that as rookies, while they are here to learn and develop, they’re not here to simply ride around and fill the field of 33.

“Initially in the ROP, the speed and the G’s felt a little foreign,” he said. “But I quickly got used to it. Then, you’re almost to the point where doing 230+ mph feels slow. We’re not here to circulate. We’re here to get a result in an ideal world.”

Here’s a quick bullet point primer on all seven, as they seek the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar’s most prestigious race.

  • Kurt Busch, Las Vegas, Nev., No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Starts 12th; 2013: NASCAR
  • Jack Hawksworth, Bradford, England, No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda. Starts 13th; 2013: Indy Lights
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Moscow, Russia, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Starts 15th; 2013: Formula Renault 3.5 Series
  • Carlos Huertas, Bogota, Colombia, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Starts 21st; 2013: Formula Renault 3.5 Series
  • James Davison, Melbourne, Australia. No. 33 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet. Starts 28th; 2013: IndyCar (two starts)
  • Martin Plowman, Tamworth, England. No. 41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda. Starts 29th; 2013: FIA World Endurance Championship
  • Sage Karam, Nazareth, Pa. No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Kingdom Racing with Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Starts 31st; 2013: Indy Lights

Latest Posts
  1. Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports airplane tragedy: 10 years later, it still seems like just yesterday

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    (Image courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) (Image courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    This is a column that should never have been written, about an event that never should have happened.

  2. Kentucky native Jack Roush to be inducted into state’s Motorsports Hall of Fame

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Legendary motorsports team owner and innovator — and Kentucky native — Jack Roush will be inducted this Saturday into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame. Roush was born in Covington, Ky.

  3. NASCAR America: Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) (Courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kyle Petty joined Dave Briggs to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash and how the team recovered from it.

  4. Talladega mystery: Did missing woman even make it to NASCAR race? Second fan to disappear in 18 months

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department) (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department)

    For the second time in 18 months, police in the area of Talladega Superspeedway are investigating the disappearance of a race fan who had intended to go to the Sprint Cup race at the 2.66-mile racetrack.

  5. Enrique Contreras III, nephew of Carlos Contreras, to make first NASCAR truck race start at Martinsville

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    (Photo credit: Enrique Contreras III) (Photo credit: Enrique Contreras III)

    Enrique Contreras III, nephew of veteran Mexican racer Carlos Contreras, will make his NASCAR debut in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Race at Martinsville Speedway.

  6. PWC: GTSport to continue two-car Cayman GTS effort

    Oct 23, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Photo: GTSport Racing Photo: GTSport Racing

    GTSport Racing returns with Jack Baldwin and Buz McCall.

  7. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET for Martinsville outlook

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    141023-nascar-america

    Martinsville preview on tap in Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA.

  8. Caterham could miss Austin as crisis deepens at Leafield

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying Getty Images

    Fernandes claims he didn’t receive full payment for Caterham, the new owners claim they haven’t received their shares, Bernie Ecclestone says he is trying to remedy the situation – but all the while, workers are locked out of the factory, putting the team’s hopes of making Austin in doubt.

  9. South Point, Gaughan to return with RCR to NASCAR XFINITY in 2015

    Oct 23, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Brendan Gaughan back for another year with RCR in XFINITY.

  10. Massa, Perez, Gutierrez confirmed for COTA fan forum

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    MasPerSochi Getty Images

    Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Esteban Gutierrez signed up for COTA fan forum.

  11. Keselowski: ‘I’m not (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) … I’m just trying to do things my own way’

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski is flattered people might compare him with the late Dale Earnhardt, but he’ll be the first to say he’s not the new Intimidator in NASCAR.

  12. Greatest collection of Indy 500 pace cars to be displayed soon

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:18 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway) (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

    Perhaps the greatest collection of original Indianapolis 500 pace cars will soon be on display at an upcoming car show in suburban Chicago.

  13. IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe being toasted for fast-selling beer

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:36 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com) (Photo courtesy Hinchtown.com)

    For most Canadians, their homebrewed beer choice is typically Labatts or Molson. But countryman and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe is starting to get some traction with his own beer brand, Hinchtown Hammer Down (HHD).

  14. NASCAR America: Take a spin around Martinsville Speedway

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around Martinsville Speedway in the NBC race simulator to show why the paper-clip shaped track can be extremely difficult.

  15. NHRA stunner: Jimmy Prock out as John Force’s crew chief

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT

    Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    In a stunning move that could potentially threaten his bid for a record-extending 17th NHRA Funny Car championship, John Force announced Wednesday that veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock has resigned, effective immediately.

  16. Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick will swap crews at Stewart-Haas (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    KurtDanica Getty Images

    Crew chiefs, road crews for Nos. 10 and 41 Stewart-Haas Racing cars will swap starting at Texas.

  17. Statement from Caterham provides unclear future for team’s plans (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    More murky messaging from Leafield as Caterham’s future hangs in the balance.

  18. Drag racer Ron Capps doesn’t let hurricane stop Hawaii appearance

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA, Teresa Long) AP

    When you drive a car that produces nearly 10,000 horsepower and reaches speeds approaching 330 mph, a hurricane with wind speeds over 100 mph is nothing. That was the case Sunday for NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1806)
  2. R. Preece (1643)
  3. R. Newman (1297)
  4. W. Pitkat (1270)
  5. B. Keselowski (1265)
  1. M. Kenseth (1182)
  2. L. Cassill (1158)
  3. D. Coby (1144)
  4. R. Rovelo (1029)
  5. K. Kahne (993)