By: Tanner Watkins
November 20, 2018 | 7:37 AM
The clock is certainly ticking on Santiago Urrutia’s prospective IndyCar Series career. With three seasons of Indy Lights competition under his belt – yet no championship to claim after a trio of near misses – the Uruguayan driver is on the outside looking in for 2019 ride.
Urrutia, still just 22, finished third in this year’s Indy Lights championship behind Road to Indy graduates and 2019 IndyCar Series rookies Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta. It was in a battle with Herta, in particular, that Urrutia’s season was defined at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Battling wheel-to-wheel for a handful of laps, Herta dove to the inside of the leader Urrutia for one final shot at the lead. The two drivers made contact with Herta standing his ground and Urrutia going around in a cloud of dust.
After leading 31 laps in the race, Urrutia was relegated to a fourth place finish and third place in the Indy Lights standings. He would never rise higher than third in the championship again, while a win would have pushed Urrutia back into first place.
Even still, 2018 remained a relatively successful campaign with two victories overall (St. Petersburg and Toronto) and eight podiums to Urrutia’s name.
With that, it seems Urrutia’s chances in Indy Lights are dwindling. Urrutia was not one of the nine Indy Lights drivers who took part in the September Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Three of those drivers drove a Belardi Indy Lights machine – Victor Franzoni, Lucas Kohl and David Malukas – and it seems the experienced Road to Indy team is ready to give some drivers in the lower ranks a shot.
In speaking with SoyMotor.com, Urrutia revealed recently that his aspirations have shifted to a partial IndyCar Series program that would include a shot at the Indianapolis 500 and cameo appearances driving touring cars in Argentina.
“The main thing is to do the Indianapolis 500,” said Urrutia, re-affirming his desire to race in the IndyCar Series in any possible way next season. It seems, though, the budget is more suited for racing in South America.
“I would like to race in Argentina, but for now I have nothing,” Urrutia reported. “If I run only in the (Indianapolis) 500 Mile (Race), I will have time to compete in Argentina… I have a good relationship with Toyota to get a seat in the Super TC2000.”
Super TC2000 is one of two Argentinian divisions of the TC2000 touring car championship. It was first founded in 1979 and an Argentine driver has won every championship in the series existence.
Similar to the comments reported in the offseason that preceded this year’s IndyCar Series championship, Urrutia claims he is in communication with teams and potential opportunities in America.
“I am negotiating with several teams, in a first instance to compete in several races, but for budgetary reasons, we aim for the (Indianapolis) 500 and if I am doing well, we will be able to aim for more races in 2020,” Urrutia explains.
The Uruguayan driver continues by stating the importance of IndyCar signing a deal to race at the proposed Punta del Este street circuit and how it could affect his chances of landing a long-term ride in the series beginning in 2020.
“That year it is very possible that the IndyCar (Series) sign(s) a contract for three seasons to compete in Punta del Este, and if that is confirmed, I will have my seat,” Urrutia says.
The closest Urrutia has gotten to any 2019 or 2020 progress has been with the ambitious Ricardo Juncos. In his team’s freshman season as IndyCar Series competitors, Juncos Racing appeared in 12 of the 17 events in 2018 with three different drivers behind the wheel.
Rene Binder, Kyle Kaiser and Alfonso Celis Jr. all shared time at the helm during Juncos’ patchwork campaign. While Urrutia is arguably more talented than each of the three, it seems money will decide whether or not he sees seat time in a Juncos Racing machine at the IndyCar Series level.
Still, Urrutia remains positive and re-affirms the conversations between himself and Juncos have been just as upbeat.
“I talk a lot with Ricardo, between Uruguayans and Argentines we get along very well,” Urrutia exclaims. “(I say) your team needs a sponsor, we are both in the same situation, we would like to be together!”
If Urrutia can bring any financial resources to the table it seems they will be pooled to make a run at the Indianapolis 500 in one of Juncos’ cars. While the Chevrolet-powered team ran only one car at Indianapolis this past May, it would make sense to expand that effort in 2019 to include two cars if Urrutia was indeed part of the program.
Pairing a veteran driver with a “500” rookie like Urrutia could go a long way in creating useful data from both team cars in what will certainly be a competitive month of May in 2019.
If Juncos is serious about expanding their program and taking the next step, it is important they invest in legitimate talent for the future.
If Urrutia is serious about continuing a career in IndyCar, 2019 will be a pivotal and deciding year in the South American’s racing future.
Header image courtesy of Road to Indy.