Young Gun Prospect: Jessica Bean, America's Next Great Open Wheel Star

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It's no secret that Americans have not made much noise in the world of open wheel racing in recent years. Save for the likes of Sam Hornish Jr. and Danica Patrick, who've had their share of success in the IZOD IndyCar Series, it's been a game for racers across the globe, who've racked up titles and victories by the handful.

While there's hope in the likes of Marco Andretti as well as J.R. Hildebrand, if motorsport fans are waiting for their next big talent from the United States to dominate the Indianapolis 500, they may want to keep an eye on 21-year-old Jessica Bean.

The Farmland, IN racing sensation has been exceptional in the open wheel ranks, cracking the top-10 points standings twice in the USAC Ford Midget Series as well as winning the ultimate "hat trick" in the USSA Kenyon Midget Series this past season.

Bean captured her first race win, rookie-of-the-year honors, and the driver's title in the Kenyon Midget Series this year, which certainly immortalized her not only as a great in that division, but as a true young gun who's always ambitious at opportunities she earns along the way.

Upon reflecting on her sensational 2011 season, Bean was humble and grateful at her immediate success.

"Winning the championship, receiving rookie honors, and getting my first win has definitely helped to boost my career," Bean said. "Making all of this happen has been a whirlwind of a ride, and it only keeps getting better. I look forward to see what is in the next chapter of my career."

Having been an open-wheel racer all her career, Bean recognizes the fact that there could be seats in other series that'd help her climb the racing ladder.

"I would like to stay the course with open-wheel, with the ultimate goal of making it to IndyCar," Bean said. "But I would be open to any good opportunities that I earn along the way. You can never pass up an opportunity that is good enough."

For the time being, she's a racer who epitomizes that "never say die" attitude that her contemporaries in A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and the Unser clan embraced in their illustrious legacies in open wheel cars.

"Racing is one of those things where when it gets in your blood, you can’t stay away from it. I have developed a strong passion for racing," she said. "I’ve been involved in racing for almost 10 years now; I don’t know what life would be like without it.

"I enjoy every bit of it, the adrenaline rush, the competition, just the whole experience. Those are my driving forces."

Even when she got injured earlier this year, she didn't slow down at all, even if it meant risking the chance of getting hurt again at the track. Like most racers, she played with the pain, even when it came at a high risk - a sign of that true driver mentality where success will be found, no matter what.

"The day after the wreck, with a concussion and only three hours of sleep, I was back out at the track working the USAC .25 Midget events at Eldora Speedway," Bean said. "Some would say that’s stupidity, but I’d call it dedication. I love being at the track and enjoyed working for USAC over the summer so I wanted to be there."

And being there is what Bean's been doing since age twelve, as she's been merely more than just a fan in the stands. Instead, she's been there, making history, and most of all, making all the right moves to be a winning racer.

Don't be surprised to find her on the starting grid of a future Indianapolis 500, doing more than just making the field.

If history's any indication, she might just become the first American since Sam Hornish, Jr. to take a swig at that glass of milk in Victory Lane.

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