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Welcome, Rubens: A Look at his INDYCAR impact

by
Chris Estrada, Zachary Houghton, Kyle Lavigne
| Mar 01, 2012

The news of Rubens Barrichello signing with KV Racing Technology for the full 2012 season made waves across the world Thursday. Barrichello’s name trended on Twitter, a full slate of international and national news outlets alike picked up the story, and excitement the IZOD IndyCar Series season bumped up yet another notch.

Our crew of bloggers each took a different angle to discuss for Rubens’ big move to INDYCAR:

Barrichello On-Track
(Chris Estrada)

Any athlete in any sport is, by nature, a competitive being. That competitiveness may vary from person to person, but it remains at the heart of why these people put everything on the line to be the best they can be in their disciplines.
 
The drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series are no different. As a whole, they’ve evolved over the years from oval specialists to solid all-around competitors, and the level of competition has moved accordingly upward by a considerable margin.
 
On Thursday, it went up again with the addition of Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in the history of Formula One. He brings a boatload of inherent benefits to the series, including a worldwide following and a tremendous body of work that features 11 Grand Prix wins, two runner-up finishes in the F1 World Drivers’ Championship, and a famous – some might say infamous -- stint as the teammate to Michael Schumacher in his glory years at Ferrari.
 
Now, Barrichello has a new challenge ahead of him and it will indeed be a challenge. For him, it’s good to come in at a time where everyone will be learning new cars and engines. But Dario Franchitti is still Dario Franchitti, one of the greatest ever in American open-wheel racing. Will Power is still Will Power, the king of the streets. Then there’s his own teammate, Tony Kanaan, who will be every bit as keen on bringing KV Racing Technology to the podium as he is.
 
In truth, every IZOD IndyCar Series driver, from the veterans to the rising stars, will look to see how they stack up against the incoming “Rubinho” – never mind the fact that he’s going to be on multiple learning curves this season (a new car, a different culture, learning the ovals). But if Barrichello’s quick acclimation to the Dallara DW12 in pre-season testing are an indication, then he’ll eventually be as ready to deliver his best shot as his rivals will be to deliver theirs.
 
Some will look at this and say that for the sake of the series’ credibility, its current talent must prove to be better than the 39-year-old Barrichello. But if both sides are on top of their games in 2012, those worries should prove to be unfounded and INDYCAR will have an even more competitive series to show off to both its diehards and, more importantly, those that have yet to be hooked.

Barrichello Off-Track
(Zachary Houghton)

While we’ll be waiting to see how Rubens performs over the course of the IICS schedule, at least how he’ll fit in off-track shouldn’t be in question.

At KV Racing Technology, Reubens will be paired with his close friend Tony Kanaan, whom we all know was instrumental in convincing Rubens to test the DW12. This proved to be the proverbial “foot in the door” that would lead to Barrichello’s eventual signing with the team. Kanaan and Barrichello have competed and race together since they were children, and the two share an easily camaraderie that is apparent immediately.

F1 is considered less fan-friendly in the extreme compared to INDYCAR, but there shouldn’t be any concern when it comes to Rubens interacting with fans. Barrichello has long been known as one of the friendliest, nicest drivers in the F1 paddock, and will likely relish the chance to mingle with fans in the less buttoned-down environment INDYCAR offers. The Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin referred to him as one of the “nicest, most genuine men I’ve met in the sport”, which is representative of how he is seen by most motorsport insiders and fans alike. Of particular note, it should be truly a great moment to see him interact this May with the cascades of fans that make Indianapolis so special.

Outside of his deep friendship with Tony Kanaan, the consensus among IZOD IndyCar Series drivers seems to be excitement that Barrichello will be in the series, if their responses on Twitter were any indication. Dario Franchitti tweeted “I think the competition level just went up again!”, while Graham Rahal responded to the news by declaring “one of the great drivers ever [Barrichello] will be joining us!” Driver Twitter commentary from Justin Wilson (“it’s going to be a fun year”) to Charlie Kimball (“a great addition for sure”) seemed to echo the generally excited tone of the drivers who will be competing against Barrichello this year.

1993 All Over Again?
( Kyle Lavigne)

The news of Rubens Barrichello joining the IZOD IndyCar Series brings back memories of Nigel Mansell’s conquest of the CART back in 1993 and ’94. No, Barrichello’s addition to the series won’t quite have the same earth-shattering impact (remember, Mansell was the defending F1 World Champion when he joined Newman/Haas Racing), but Barrichello, the most experienced F1 competitor in history, will provide a solid boost.
 
Though nearly 40 years old, he is far from a “has been” or backmarker who was quickly pushed out of Formula 1. Rubens Barrichello is enormously liked among F1 fans (evidenced by his 1.4 million followers on Twitter) not only for his friendly and out-going demeanor, but also because he is a sympathetic figure. While at Scuderia Ferrari, he was forced to play second fiddle to Michael Schumacher, something that did not go over well with fans (one need only watch the infamous 2002 Austrian Grand Prix for confirmation of this).
 
Quite frankly, if not for team orders, Barrichello could have been a title contender with Scuderia Ferrari. And, as recently as 2009, he is a Grand Prix winner (he won 11 total Grand Prix events in his time in F1). Clearly, INDYCAR is gaining international star power with the addition of Barrichello, which will serve the series well both inside and outside U.S. borders.

Ultimately, the success of Barrichello’s new chapter in INDYCAR will be decided by his success both on and off the track. With the excitement surrounding his arrival, you can bet his time here will be high-profile in the extreme. For a racer used to the international heights of F1, that shouldn’t be an adjustment, but he’ll also get to enjoy the atmosphere and friendliness of the top tier of American open wheel racing along the way. The Rubens Barrichello saga should be one of the biggest storylines of 2012, and we’re all going to be spectators along the way.

4 Comments

  1. 1 Gordon 22 Mar

    What is beautiful about Rubens is that this is a MAJOR INTERNATIONAL DRIVER coming to INDYCAR. Is this the second coming of Mansell? No...but we in the US cannot be so xenophobic to ignore this guy is a Racing Rockstar who still has it and raises the level of the sport. Remember we lamented "Milk and Donuts" as the eternal moving chicane...and have progressed to Rubens in INDYCAR! I'm excited for St Pete and cannot wait for this season to unfold!

    I say Rubens is Top 5 7 times and wins 2!!

     

    Call your shot!

  2. 2 arnold edgar 06 Mar
    with Rubens coming over to Indy Car for 2012, and hope longer, puts Indy Car back in the "POSITIVE" spotlight , that they so much needed. after loosing Wheldon, this was a prayer answered. looking foward to meeting him and watching his"style" of racing.
  3. 3 Josh 02 Mar

    Definitely should be a fun year, addition of Rubens is a huge lift for the series for sure.  Can't wait for the season to start.

  4. 4 Yves Schelpe 02 Mar
    Looking forward to this new season! As an old-time F1 follower I have to admit that Indy is a lot more interesting these days. Too bad Danica left, but goof news that Rubinho entered the racing series! Where's the green flag? :)

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