IndyCar: Santiago Urrutia, the biggest wasted modern-day talent

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27: Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet, and other drivers pit during the 102nd Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27: Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet, and other drivers pit during the 102nd Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Former Indy Lights driver Santiago Urrutia has what it takes to compete in IndyCar. Now set to drive in TCR Europe because he does not have a ride in IndyCar, he is the biggest wasted talent in the modern era of the sport.

It seems that more often than not, there are multiple “deserving” drivers who are left without full-time rides in IndyCar because of the fact that they do not have the funding to compete in America’s premier open-wheel racing series while other drivers who are perceived to be less talented compete in the series for several consecutive seasons.

While the situation involving 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward being cut by Harding Steinbrenner Racing, which announced back in September shortly after the 2018 IndyCar season ended that the 19-year-old Mexican was set to be one of the team’s two drivers in the 2019 IndyCar season, less than one month before the scheduled starting date of the 2019 season got a lot of attention, one situation that hasn’t received as much of the spotlight is that of Santiago Urrutia.

With O’Ward still likely to land at least a part-time ride for the 2019 season with a competitive team, there is no bigger wasted talent in the modern era of IndyCar than the 22-year-old Uruguayan.

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Urrutia has competed in the Road to Indy in each of the last four seasons. As a rookie in the 2015 Pro Mazda Championship season, he won the championship driving for Team Pelfrey. He recorded three victories, 10 podium finishes and 14 top five finishes throughout the 16-race season.

Urrutia spent the next three seasons competing in Indy Lights and experienced a boatload of success. In the 2016 season, he drove for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and recorded four victories, seven podium finishes and 13 top five finishes in the season’s 18 races.

In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Urrutia drove for Belardi Auto Racing. He recorded two victories, nine podium finishes and 10 top five finishes in the 16-race 2017 season before recording another two victories, eight podium finishes and 15 top five finishes in the 17-race 2018 season.

Just like O’Ward was, Urrutia was also promised a ride to drive for Harding Steinbrenner Racing (then Harding Racing) in IndyCar. He was supposedly set to drive for the team in the 2018 season before Gabby Chaves, who the team also ended up bamboozling, landed the ride as their full-time driver for their first season as a full-time IndyCar team.

Here is part of what Urrutia had to say about being promised a ride with Harding Racing for the 2018 season but not ending up driving for the team in a recent interview he did with Open-Wheels following the unfolding of the O’Ward/Harding Steinbrenner Racing situation.

"“At the time, they told me they were going to give me $100,000 to race in Indy Lights with Belardi [Auto Racing] because I wasn’t having a lot of money to race for Belardi. Then they gave me a contract.“I had a contract, I have everything that says that they’re going to give me $100,000 to race in Indy Lights and I would be the second driver for Harding. If I won the championship, I would be a full driver for next season. They never gave me the $100,000, and they never gave me the ride in IndyCar.“I know [team manager] Larry Curry [who was Urrutia’s initial connection with Harding Racing] then left the team and it was [team president] Brian Barnhart, but Brian called me many times to say, ‘Santi, no worries. Everything is done. You’re going to be in the team.’“So it was [team owner] Mike Harding and Brian Barnhart saying to me, ‘you are going to be full-time,’ but they never do anything. They just lied with me every time. I spent a lot of money with the hotels and flying from Uruguay to Indy for nothing. I mean it’s just ridiculous.”"

You can read Urrutia’s full interview with Open-Wheels by clicking here.

But it is not just the fact that Urrutia has still never competed in one IndyCar race and the fact that he is not even lined up to do so in the near future that make his situation frustrating. In fact, he is set to leave American open-wheel racing completely this season and drive an Audi RS3 LMS for renowned Belgian team Team WRT in TRC Europe.

Take a look at the opportunities that the drivers who finished ahead of Urrutia at any point throughout his Road to Indy career have had in IndyCar.

Urrutia finished in second place in the 2016 Indy Lights championship standings. He finished just two points (363 to 361) behind champion Ed Jones, who landed a full-time ride with Dale Coyne Racing for the 2017 IndyCar season and finished in third in his first career Indianapolis 500 appearance that year.

Jones then went on to drive full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the 2018 season, and he is set to drive in the road and street course races as well as the Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa this season.

Urrutia finished in second place in the 2017 Indy Lights championship standings as well. He finished just 20 points (330 to 310) behind champion Kyle Kaiser, who landed a part-time ride with Juncos Racing for the 2018 IndyCar season and is set to drive for the team throughout the 2019 season, likely in multiple races once again, as well.

In the 2018 Indy Lights championship standings, Urrutia finished in a career-low position. That said, his career-low position was still an impressive third place, and given who he finished behind, this is certainly nothing to scoff at.

Urrutia finished behind champion O’Ward and runner-up Colton Herta in the 2018 Indy Lights championship standings. O’Ward’s situation, as discussed above, while unfortunate, is probably still not as unfortunate as that of Urrutia, and depending on how this situation unfolds in terms of him landing a ride for the 2019 IndyCar season, it may not even end up being all that unfortunate.

Herta, meanwhile, is set to drive full-time for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in the 2019 IndyCar season, and if Spring Training at Circuit of the Americas is any indication of how strong he and the team will be, he will be a legitimate threat to win races on a regular basis this year.

The 18-year-old Valencia, California native topped the speed charts in three of the four Spring Training test sessions and finished in second place in the one that he did not top. He recorded the fastest overall lap time of these four sessions.

Meanwhile, Urrutia is currently out of American open-wheel racing completely, and he does not currently have a clear path to get involved in it in the series in which he deserves to compete: IndyCar. There is literally no other way describe him than the biggest waste of talent in modern-day IndyCar — at least for now.

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Will Santiago Urrutia ever end up competing in IndyCar like he deserves to, or are his days competing in American open-wheel racing over now that he is set to compete in TCR Europe and the 2019 season is set to be the first season since the 2014 season during which he does not compete in the Road to Indy?

With him being only 22 years old, a return to American open-wheel racing is certainly not out of the question for Urrutia. That said, we will have to wait and see where his career takes him now that he is no longer competing in the Road to Indy before serious talks of such a return potentially emerge.