2020 Indy Lights preview: Team capsules, schedule, streaming info

Indy Lights

The 2020 Indy Lights season kicks off with a doubleheader on the streets of St. Petersburg this weekend, and plenty of new faces and a few familiar ones are ready to take on the top rung of the Road to Indy Ladder.

There is plenty of incentive for each Indy Lights competitor to make a run for the title. Whichever driver wins the championship will receive a $1 million scholarship to race in a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next season, including the Indianapolis 500.

Past Indy Lights champions to move up to IndyCar include Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward, Oliver Askew and 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Champion Josef Newgarden.

All Indy Lights races will be broadcast live exclusively as part of NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR PASS streaming service.

The pass will provide more than 200 hours of programming in 2020, including more than 50 hours surrounding the Indianapolis 500. Available for $54.99 annually, the pass also offers live coverage of all IndyCar practice and qualifying sessions and full replays of all NTT IndyCar Series races. Click here for more information on NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR PASS.

Below is a look at the current lineups for all teams competing in Indy Lights this season:

Andretti Autosport

The team seeks its third consecutive championship, having previously won the championship in 2019 (Askew) and ’18 (O’Ward).

Robert Megennis joins the team for the second season in a row. The 20-year-old won his first Indy Lights race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last year.

Joining Megennis are Danial Frost and Kyle Kirkwood, who move up to Lights after competing in Indy Pro 2000 last year. Kirkwood won nine races with RP Motorsport Racing last season en route to the Indy Pro 2000 championship.

Tristan Carpenter also will race for Andretti for the first six races of the season. Carpenter will run both races of this weekend’s doubleheader at St. Petersburg, as well as at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Belardi Auto Racing

Toby Sowery joins Belardi for his sophomore season, having previously finished third in the standings and picking up his first Lights victory at Portland last year.

Rasmus Lindh moves up to Indy Lights for 2020 after winning three races with Juncos Racing in Indy Pro 2000.

Exclusive Autosport

The 2020 Indy Lights season marks the first for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Exclusive Autosport, which brings driver Nikita Lastochkin up to Lights with them.  At 29, the Russian driver is the oldest of the 10 entered in the season opener. Lastochkin finished sixth overall in the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 standings.

HMD Motorsports

HMD’s 2020 lineup is the most experienced of the four full-time teams in Lights this season. David Malukas returns to the team for his sophomore season after finishing sixth overall in the 2019 standings.

Santiago Urrutia also returns to Indy Lights competition after racing in Europe in 2019. The 23-year-old Uruguayan driver aims for his first Lights championship after finishing second overall in 2016 and 2017, and third overall in 2018.

Rookie Antonio Serravalle, 17, also is scheduled to run at least the first nine races of 2020. The Canadian driver, who made his Road to Indy debut in Pro Mazda in 2018, hopes to complete the full season pending current sponsorship negotiations.

2020 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Schedule

March 14/15 Streets of St. Petersburg 1.8-mile street course*
April 4/5 Barber Motorsports Park 2.3-mile road course*
May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.439-mile road course*
May 22 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval
June 20/21 Road America 4.014-mile road course*
July 11/12 Streets of Toronto 1.786-mile street course*
August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 2.258-mile road course*
August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway 1.25-mile oval
September 5/6 Portland International Raceway 1.967-mile road course*
September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 2.238-mile road course*

*Doubleheader weekend

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Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The red flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500