Indy Lights: Producing the Future Stars of IndyCar
 October 20, 2017| 
  • Series News
Week 2 Blog
The goal of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is to graduate drivers from the development ladder system to the top of the American open-wheel racing scene: the Verizon IndyCar Series. Nowhere is the realization of that goal more recognized than in the success of drivers progressing from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and realizing their dreams.

Since the inception of the Mazda Road to Indy in 2010, the final rung of the ladder has graduated no fewer then 22 drivers into the Verizon IndyCar Series, including 2011 Indy Lights champion – and 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion – Josef Newgarden.

Naturally, it is the Indy Lights series that has the most impressive graduation rate: the last six Indy Lights champions – Ed Jones, Spencer Pigot, Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam, Tristan Vautier and Newgarden – have all seen success in the IndyCar series over the past seven years. Add in reigning champion Kyle Kaiser, who will make his debut next season, and as many as five of the last seven champions are expected to be seen on the grids in 2018 at this stage.

The graduation roll is not limited merely to series champions. 2014 title contender and third-place finisher Zach Veach recently announced his return to Andretti Autosport for a full season in the big show next year with fellow Indy Lights alumni Stefan Wilson set to make his second Indy 500 start for the squad. And two-time series runner-up Jack Harvey hopes to expand on his three IndyCar starts this year that included the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Since 2010, Indy Lights graduates have enjoyed success in the IndyCar series with James Hinchcliffe, Vautier, Carlos Muñoz, Chaves and Jones all earning series Rookie of the Year honors. Of that group, 2010 vice champion Hinchcliffe has enjoyed the most success in the series, with five victories, 14 podium finishes – and one of the largest fan bases in motorsports.

In the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma, 15 of the 22 starters had contested the Indy Lights ranks with 2017 fifth-place finisher Zachary Claman DeMelo making his debut in a second entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Drivers have been attracted to Indy Lights from all over the globe, each with an eye toward the prize of a scholarship valued at $1M with three guaranteed IndyCar races including the Indianapolis 500.

Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires provides drivers, teams and sponsors an opportunity to gain valuable experience on and off the track while following a clear-cut path of progression through three development series: the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. Scholarships are awarded at each level to assist drivers in their progression.

“The Mazda Road to Indy from an IndyCar and, frankly, from an Indianapolis 500 perspective is priceless,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of INDYCAR. “It is THE way for us to develop talent that supports the IndyCar series and the 500-mile race in Indianapolis. And it’s working.”

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