Photo: Indy Lights

MRTI: Barber marks 400th Indy Lights event

Leave a comment

This weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will see the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires contest a pair of races, the second of which will see the championship hit a major milestone. The April 23 race will mark the 400th for the series, currently in its 32nd year of existence and 16th under the current INDYCAR sanctioning.

“It is a great honor to be involved with Indy Lights as organizer/promoter after having fielded a team in the series for a number of years and, prior to that, being a fan of the countless young drivers who took that last important step before moving to IndyCar,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which assumed operation of the series in 2014.

Anderson added, “Today’s Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires carries on the tradition of developing talent for the top, and the legacy of Indy Lights and its highly successful results as a training ground are so important to note as we celebrate another milestone. Indy Lights history was started by others, some very important people in open-wheel racing, and Andersen Promotions is honored to be entrusted with carrying on that legacy.”

Since its debut in the 1980s, the championship has seen several different looks and names and has operated under a pair of sanctioning bodies. The original series, dubbed the American Racing Series, was created in 1986 to serve as a support championship to the CART-sanctioned PPG IndyCar World Series. The first race was held at Phoenix Raceway, with Steve Millen taking the victory.

In 1991, it was officially rechristened “Indy Lights” and held title sponsorship from Firestone, PPG, and Dayton until CART folded the series after the 2001 season.

However, a new series was born immediately afterward. The Infiniti Pro Series debuted in 2002 under IRL sanctioning, with A.J. Foyt IV winning its first race at Kansas Speedway. The championship was titled the Indy Pro Series between 2006 and 2007 before the Indy Lights name returned in 2008.

Current IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe, who contested Indy Lights in 2009 and 2010, highlighted the training ground Indy Lights provides as an invaluable asset.

“The fact that Indy Lights has been around for 400 races just speaks volumes for the value of this series,” said the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver, who coincidentally won the series’ 300th race at Long Beach in 2010. “So many of its drivers have gone on to IndyCar success, and I bet every single one of them would say Lights was an invaluable step in achieving it. My time in Indy Lights taught me so much and there is no doubt that my career in IndyCar would not be what it is had I not had that experience. Congrats to everyone who has helped make this series what it is over 400 races!”

The 2017 Indy Lights championship currently sees Colton Herta leading the way, ten points in front of Aaron Telitz and 20 ahead of Pato O’Ward.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.