MRTI: Barber marks 400th Indy Lights event

Photo: Indy Lights

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.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.