MRTI: Barber marks 400th Indy Lights event

Photo: Indy Lights
0 Comments

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.