Here's a question: do fans want more Americans, or is being Anglo-Saxon good enough? (see: @JustinWilson22, @PippaMann, etc.)And I think it's a legitimate question. With the first day of the Barber Test, along with the first real media availability of the Izod IndyCar Series drivers, it's worth noting that only three full-time series drivers (as of right now) are from North America - Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Alex Tagliani.
The twitter has been buzzing about this, as Paul Tracy has railed against it a time or two today.
So, with Johns' question in mind, what do I want from the Izod IndyCar Series as it relates to its drivers? Is a series of talented international drivers acceptable, or must more Americans remain involved in the sport in order to hold my interest?
I don't think that it is necessary to have a series with a majority of Americans; however, having a series with viable American stars is vital. Frankly, having Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Alex Tagliani as the Izod IndyCar Series' only North American drivers is not going to cut it for the general audience.
(Well, unless DanicaMania carries over from her time in NAPCAR, then it's a whole new ballgame. But I don't see that happening.)
Graham Rahal was supposed to be one of those young, up-and-coming American drivers. The fact that he can't get a ride speaks more to the American economy, I think, rather than the series' ability to attract sponsors. Clearly, having money helps land a ride these days, and unless Graham can find a more viable market in which to secure a sponsorship (say Brazil or Japan), he might have to drive for Dale Coyne or his father this season.
(Though neither one of those is a bad one-season option, given the choice of not running or running for a "lesser" team. A crazy thought - if Rafa Matos can find additional sponsorship, could Graham move to the Marines/Air Force car for Luzco Dragon? Yes, it is a crazy thought.)
Look, the Izod IndyCar Series has always had an international flair. From Emerson Fittipaldi to Roberto Guerrero to Jacques Villeneuve (good on Jacques for carrying the Canadian flag during opening ceremonies - it even got the Indianapolis 500 a mention), the series has always relied on non-Americans to provide solid competition.
Is the fact that just two Americans are currently slotted to run full-time in 2010 disappointing? Yes. Can that number go up? Certainly, with Ryan Hunter-Reay already slated for a part-time schedule and Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand currently trying to setup full-time rides, this number can increase.
But if they don't, will I abandon the series? Certainly not. The Izod IndyCar Series is about more than American drivers; to me, it is about close races, the Indianapolis 500, and watching some of the world's most talented drivers compete at the highest level of auto racing. Whether or not the majority of those drivers are American does not matter, so long as the level of racing remains high.