Penske proud after first year of Indy Lights stewardship

Karl Zemlin/Penske Entertainment

Penske proud after first year of Indy Lights stewardship

Road to Indy

Penske proud after first year of Indy Lights stewardship

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Roger Penske is proud of the job his Penske Entertainment team have done during their first season of running the Indy Lights championship. Of the notable changes, a new series boss was installed with Levi Jones, investments were made in the hardware used to perform technical inspections, and a slight increase in grid size with 12 full-time entries and fields that reached 14 cars at a handful of rounds were recorded

The prospects for 2023 are especially encouraging, with an anticipated spike in entries that could push Indy Lights to nearly 20 cars for the first time since the 2000s. The success follows the groundwork established by Dan Andersen and his daughter Michelle Kish, who operated the championship for eight seasons.

After a series of failures to modernize the Lights series, IndyCar handed control of the series to Andersen Promotions in 2014, and by 2015, a new Dallara IL15 chassis and turbocharged four-cylinder Mazda engine was introduced to help the top step of the Road To Indy move forward. The chassis and unbadged motor continue to serve as the basis of the Indy Lights series.

With its purchase of IndyCar in 2020, Penske Entertainment targeted taking over the Indy Lights property that came with the sale, and after Andersen Promotions completed the 2021 season, full control returned to Indy Lights’ parent company. Enhancements in the return of prize money for each race and a new deal to bring Firestone back to Indy Lights as its sole supplier were announced under Penske’s watch.

In most regards, Penske’s debut as promotor for the series was a success.

“Since we’ve taken it over, there’s no question that the interest is just amazing,” Penske told RACER. “When you think about it, we could have 15 to 18 cars next year and good teams coming in, leaving other series, and coming into the Lights series. And I think Levi’s done an outstanding job. We’ve stepped up the technical side of it. We’ll have Firestone coming in to supply tires next year, so it’ll be a consistent tire between Indy Lights and the IndyCar side of it.

“It’s going to be a great year, and I’m thrilled with it. And I’m sure that Andretti and HMD and everybody else that’s going to continue to invest in Lights is going to be happy next year. So I’d give ourselves a good grade.”

The HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing team will expand to run eight cars next year. Andretti Autosport is set to return with four, and from there, Abel Motorsports is expected to continue with two cars. Juncos Hollinger Racing is aiming to field two along with USF2000 champion Cape Motorsports, which will step up to Lights. Force Indy is also expected to continue, but it’s unclear whether that will remain as a standalone entry or if it will count as one of HMD’s eight. Legacy Autosport has also purchased a car and stated its intent to compete in Indy Lights.

Altogether, the year-to-year growth should be remarkable. The only significant setback is found with the dramatic drop in the Lights champion’s advancement prize, which saw a reduction from $1.2 million in 2021 to the $500,000 awarded to Linus Lundqvist last weekend.

Future scholarship incentives are under discussions, such as having IndyCar partners Chevrolet or Honda contribute an engine lease to each new Indy Lights champion, and the same concept has been floated for Firestone to provide a year of free IndyCar tires to the title winner. Together, those leases would be worth more than $2 million if and when IndyCar can make them happen.

“We’ve talked about all those subjects,” Penske said. “And we’ve gone to our teams and asked them to give us some insight and ideas on how we can make it better with what ends up being given to the champion. It’s a focus for us because Indy Lights is an integral part of our business.”

The possibility of a name change for the series has made the rounds as well, with ‘IndyCar Lights’ mentioned as a possible rebranding effort to come during the offseason.

MX-5 Cup | Round 12 – VIR

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