On Friday at the Honda Indy Toronto, an announcement was made with regards to the future of the Firestone Indy Lights. INDYCAR announced they’ve entered into an agreement with Andersen Promotions to license and operate the Firestone Indy Lights in 2014.
“This is a positive move for our sport,” Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations for INDYCAR, said. “A strong and relevant training system is important to develop the next generation of INDYCAR drivers.”
Indy Lights has served an important purpose in developing drivers throughout the years. Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe and Tristan Vautier are just three of the drivers who’ve graduated from Indy Lights to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Many IndyCar teams run drivers in the Indy Lights to further develop their programs.
“The history of Firestone Indy Lights is so impressive with dozens of drivers graduating to IZOD IndyCar Series careers over the years,” Dan Andersen said. “I am honored to be given the opportunity to step in and steer the course for the future.”
The move makes sense as Andersen Promotions already manages the other series that are part of the MAZDA Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by MAZDA and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Drivers who want to race in the IZOD IndyCar Series are highly encouraged to use the stepping ladder system to gain experience.
“Firestone Indy Lights will be more closely aligned with its developmental series already operated by Andersen Promotions and will be positioned for growth to continue to meet the goal of preparing up-and-coming race drivers for the rigors of the IZOD IndyCar Series,” Walker said. “Today’s announcement will create more consistency as drivers and teams advance from USF2000 to Pro Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights, all under the leadership of Andersen Promotions.”
Indy Lights graduate James Hinchcliffe says the continuity and consistency will be a benefit
“I think that’s a strong business move and a strong marketing move, and hopefully, ultimately will help attract young drivers and help graduate them up through the ranks,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Dan, I raced against him in Star Mazda, and I see what he’s done with the series now and it’s been very positive. I think this is great news for Indy Lights.”
Andersen Promotions has shown success with the USF2000 Series as there’s close racing with a total of 30 cars.
“Our model for operating developmental programs appears to be well-received by teams and drivers, and I am fortunate to have a strong staff in place,” Andersen said. “We believe in the Mazda Road to Indy, and are grateful that INDYCAR has chosen to continue its support for years to come.”
Those sentiments are echoed by 2012 Indy Lights Champion Tristan Vautier
“It’s a very good thing,” Vautier commented. “I think Andersen has done an outstanding job in USF2000 and Pro Mazda. These ladder series are the reason America is the place for young drivers to be. I’m happy that it will continue to be the case for Firestone Indy Lights.”
The key to Dan Andersen’s leadership is he knows the owner’s perspective, the promoter’s perspective and the driver’s perspectives from experience. He also listens to input from the owners.
“Dan has the passion for the Mazda Road to Indy,” JF Thormann, Executive Vice President and COO of Andretti Autosport, said. “He really listens to the team owners. With Dan’s leadership, I’ve liked what I’ve seen and heard so far.”
Lately, the Indy Lights have been lacking and with only nine cars in the series, people are looking for improvement. Hopefully Dan can deliver on that.
It has already been announced that the Indy Lights will run 12 races a year, with 10 dates run alongside the IndyCar Series. INDYCAR added they will work with the television partners to ensure continued coverage.
Andersen Promotions has already taken step one in launching a new stand-alone website for the Indy Lights – http://www.indylights.com.