As America’s open-wheel community awaits the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, current and prospective Indy Lights team owners, drivers and sponsors are also curious about the calendar of events that lies ahead. Based on a bit of digging behind the scenes, it appears a rather familiar roster of races will be run next year with a twist at the end.
The revitalized Indy Lights series could have 10 weekends of racing and 14 or more races next season (including double-headers), which would mirror what it ran in 2014. Once the championship gets under way, teams will press the brand-new Dallara IL15 chassis and AER P63 4-cylinder turbo engine into service.
Starting the season, Indy Lights is expected to repeat the opening of the 2014 championship with St. Petersburg (March 28-29), Long Beach (April 18-19), Barber Motorsports Park (April 25-26), Indianapolis road course (May 8-9) and Indianapolis oval (May 22) as the first championship stretch. It’s unclear whether the new event at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana (April 11-12) will make the list.
Those first five dates are already confirmed for IndyCar, making it easy to pencil the Lights series into known events. With NOLA as a first-timer for IndyCar, adding Lights would make sense, with but three steps on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to consider for inclusion, time will tell which series make the cut.
Charting the Lights season after Indianapolis is a harder task due to some of the question marks that remain on the IndyCar schedule. Pocono was less than stellar for both series this year, with Lights playing in front of mostly empty grandstands. With a series that needs to be seen and shown as on the rise, Pocono isn’t the place to go.
Toronto’s place as Lights’ lone trip to Canada is a lock, although the date is still TBD, and with short oval training an important part of IndyCar’s final step on the open-wheel ladder, returns to Iowa and Milwaukee are also considered a sure thing. Like Toronto, dates for Iowa and Milwaukee have yet to be set by IndyCar, but both should be included on the Lights calendar.
The Dallara IL15 made its public debut at Mid-Ohio – another series staple – in August, and can be counted on for inclusion next year (August 1-2). That’s nine races so far, and the 10th could be the best of all.
The Pirelli World Challenge series is set to close its season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Sept. 12-13), and we’ve learned Indy Lights is meant to share the bill for its finale as open-wheel racing returns to Monterey for the first time since 2009.
It represents a move from the San Francisco Bay Area’s other venue, Sonoma Raceway, and if it follows this year’s form, the rest of the Mazda Road To Indy series would take part and Monterey should also serve as the location for the season-ending award banquet and celebration.