The 2020 Indy Lights season has been cancelled. The decision comes in reaction to an ever-shrinking NTT IndyCar Series calendar that has left the series with insufficient track time to hold its sessions.
“The effects of the global pandemic on businesses, including racing, have been severe,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “The changes to our overall calendar of races, as well as each event weekend’s scheduling and the ability for some of our drivers to compete, has impacted the Indy Lights series far more harshly than our other two championships. With less of a cushion to begin with, it became increasingly apparent that the 2020 season was in jeopardy and the best plan was to take a pause, reconstitute for 2021, and do our best to enhance the Indy Lights championship for next season.
“After discussions with IndyCar and understanding of their firm commitment to Indy Lights going forward, we, together, decided to suspend the 2020 Indy Lights season. We recognize that this will cause some hardships, but we hope all participants will realize the necessity of this decision and we look ahead to 2021 with a promise of better things to come.”
Veteran Indy Lights team owner Brian Belardi made his name on the Road To Indy, winning the 2014 championship with Gabby Chaves and taking numerous victories over the years with his Indiana-based squad. More than any other consideration, the cancellation of the 2020 season has turned his attention to the people who comprise Belardi Auto Racing.
“We’re working on all kinds of options and seeing if there are other series we might go into this year,” Belardi told RACER. “We’ll get through it; it just depends on our strategy. We’re trying to put a contingency plan in place because the biggest thing for me is the welfare of my team. They’ve been with me for nine or 10 years, and if I don’t make the right move, it can have a bad effect on their lives and families. The welfare of my team is what I’m working on harder than anything else.”
Among the four Indy Lights team owners affected by the decision, one new Road To Indy entrant, Exclusive Autosport, faces a unique challenge with the cancellation after ramping up to make its series debut.
“This is definitely sad,” said team owner Michael Duncalfe. “We purchased two full Indy Lights cars and spares to go racing this year, but it’s been difficult with COVID-19. I know the series was constantly adjusting schedules, and through no fault of their own, made the decision to cancel. It’s a difficult decision for them, but it’s one we’ll have to live with.”
The Canadian team was set to move upward with its Indy Pro 2000 driver Nikita Lastochkin, and added new team members to support the effort. Without a season to run, questions on what to do with the equipment, personnel, and funding delivered to run the program face Duncalfe and every other Indy Lights team owner.
“The difficult part is in addition to the investment in the equipment is the investment in the staff,” he said. “How do you sort things out? Ultimately, you need to do what’s best for your drivers, your clients, and they’ll keep coming back. More likely than not, Nikita will want to come up with an interesting testing schedule to keep him ready for 2021.”
Among the 10 drivers sidelined by the decision, Andretti Autosport’s Robert Megennis had visions of using sophomore season in Indy Lights to add more wins and graduate to IndyCar. Like his rivals, dealing with derailed plans for 2020 is the first order of business.
“It is disappointing we aren’t racing, but everything is so crazy right now with the virus and sports being on hold, that I understand this decision,” he said. “Now I need to figure out what I’ll be driving this year. Because I want to keep myself ready to come back to Indy Lights in 2021 and keep the momentum going.”
Some Lights drivers, including Megennis, are looking at forays into IMSA or SRO Motorsports America.
“I’ve been racing on The Road To Indy for five years, and this break has been good to take stock of things,” he said. “I’m 20, and I, hopefully, have so many more years ahead of me that since this is out of my control, I just have to take this break and deal with it, like all the other drivers. It’s not just me. It’s the entire class. If I end up moving to IndyCar, I’ll be more mature when I get there. Everyone wants to be there as young as they can, but I want to be there when I’m ready. So hopefully I can take this year and do some driving elsewhere and continue to mature as a professional. I just don’t know where, yet.”