The number of rookies in this year’s Indianapolis 500 is seven, three more than last year. George Costanza might like the number; so might 7UP if it opted to sponsor the award.
But the sponsor of this year’s Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year award for the seven drivers is a classic, in Sunoco. It was named as such by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday morning.
Sunoco’s history in motorsports dates to the 1960s, and it also serves as the current season-long Rookie-of-the-Year sponsor for the Verizon IndyCar Series. This is a natural extension.
“The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award has long been one of the most coveted honors that a first year driver in the race can receive and the list of its recipients is a ‘Who’s Who’ among professional racing drivers,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “What makes the award exciting is that a driver who might not have had the best of practice or qualifying leading up to the race, could put it all together on race day and make a strong showing when it really counts. We are looking forward to seeing who that Sunoco Rookie of the Year is for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”
On Tuesday, before they went to Louisville, the six rookies in the field not named Kurt Busch gathered for the 40th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year luncheon presented by the American Dairy Association Indiana.
Busch was the fastest rookie this year at 230.782 and will roll off 12th, but went to New York on Tuesday for his round of media commitments. Still, he appreciated the honor.
“It’s a very prestigious award and to be able post the fastest time was through a bunch of hard work by the Andretti Autosport team,” Busch said, via IndyCar.com. “When you’re a rookie you’re always driving down a road that you’ve never been down before, and my past experience might have helped out just a little bit with my knowing this racetrack.”
The remaining six – Jack Hawksworth (starts 13th), Mikhail Aleshin (15th), Carlos Huertas (21st), James Davison (28th), Martin Plowman (29th) and Sage Karam (31st) – will be seeking to knock Busch off the ROTY perch for the month of May and take home the prestigious award.
It’s always one of the best subplots of the race.