Mazda will wind down its involvement in the Mazda Road to Indy at the end of the 2018 racing season as the company refocuses its motorsport strategy.
The 2018 USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights champions will receive Mazda Advancement Scholarships for the 2019 season, and the annual $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Global Shootout will be held as scheduled in December.
“On behalf of Mazda, I’d like to thank Andersen Promotions and everyone involved with the Road to Indy for a wonderful nine years, but the time has come for Mazda to focus our resources into other areas of our motorsports footprint,” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan said in a statement.
“We have truly enjoyed our role in developing young racers into Indy 500 hopefuls, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Andersen Promotions through the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup. The 2018 USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights champions will receive Mazda Advancement Scholarships for the 2019 season and the annual $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Global shootout will also be held in December of this season.
“Motorsports is at the core of Mazda’s DNA and the company remains committed to its variety of motorsports programs in the coming years including our grassroots club racing initiatives, the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, the Mazda Road to 24, and Mazda Team Joest.”
Since its formal establishment in 2010, Mazda has provided more than $12 million to graduate more than 250 drivers up Mazda Road to Indy ladder from USF2000 to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
INDYCAR released a statement noting that plans to continue the driver development program would be announced at a later date:
“The Road to Indy program has staged great racing over the years while developing teams and drivers for the Verizon IndyCar Series, and that will continue with plans soon to be announced. Mazda has been a transformative partner, and INDYCAR is appreciative of its many contributions.”
Seven drivers have won Indy Lights championships and the accompanying scholarship that helped them make their Indianapolis 500 debuts. A record 27 of the 35 drivers who attempted to qualify for this year’s Indy 500 were Indy Lights alumni. The current IndyCar field features Lights champions Josef Newgarden (2011), Spencer Pigot (2015) and Ed Jones (2016).
“Mazda has been a great supporter of the Road to Indy and integral in the development of this program as the only true path to IndyCar,” said Chris Pantani, director of motorsports for Cooper Tires, the presenting sponsor and tire supplier for all three ladder series.
“Their contribution will have lasting positive effect on the series and drivers who have participated in the program. Cooper is looking forward to a successful culmination of the 2018 race season and an exciting 2019 season as we continue to work in concert with Andersen Promotions as the presenting sponsor for the Road to Indy program, developing the next generation of open wheel talent for IndyCar.”
Andersen Promotions owner and CEO Dan Andersen released a statement saying discussions are ongoing with potential partners and thanking Mazda for being a “key player” in growing the open-wheel driver development system.
“We would like to thank Mazda for nine tremendous years in supporting and headlining the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
“They have been a great partner and their scholarships have helped so many drivers achieve their dream of progressing to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Mazda has been a key player in establishing and helping to grow our driver development system into the unparalleled program it is today. They remain with us through the end of this season and will once again be awarding each of our series’ champions a scholarship to move up to the next step in 2019 as well as the winner of the USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout in December.
“As their marketing objectives pursue new horizons, we at Andersen Promotions are committed to maintaining the outstanding ladder structure we have in place for 2019 and beyond. We are currently in discussions with several potential companies as we actively pursue a new partner.”