Michael Andretti bullish about Indy Lights future, wants more support from other IndyCar teams

Andretti Autosport chief executive and team owner Michael Andretti is disappointed that so few IndyCar teams have an Indy Lights operation. Speaking to selected media including F1 Feeder Series this week, he said he wants more teams to get involved in Indy Lights going forward.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

While Indy Lights is growing rapidly and will have the largest grid in many years in 2022, so far Andretti Autosport and Juncos Hollinger Racing are the only IndyCar teams that are active in Lights.

“I’m very disappointed in some of the bigger teams that they don’t support it more,” Andretti said when asked why not more IndyCar teams have a Lights team. “In fact, I always push for them to come up with rules to give incentives to the bigger teams to get into the series. I think that would only be good for the health of IndyCar in general if there were more of the big teams in Indy Lights. Yeah, I mean, I’m disappointed that we don’t have more support from the other team owners.”

Bright future

As of 2022, Indy Lights will come under the direct operational control of Penske Entertainment and IndyCar, after being run for many years by Andersen Promotions. While Andretti paid tribute to Andersen as it helped Lights through a few rough years with low car counts, he welcomed the change of command and expressed his confidence in a bright future for Indy Lights.

“We all have to say thank you to Andersen for keeping it alive all these years, for sure,” the 1991 IndyCar champion said. “I was happy that we were able to finally talk Roger (Penske, JD) into looking at Indy Lights and then now taking it over, it’s a huge step for Indy Lights. I think it’s going to really help the growth of the series. He’s going to integrate it much more into the paddock and things like that. So I think it’s going to be really, really good for Indy Lights, and I see the field is going to be bigger next year and I could see it following years being bigger and bigger yet.”

Talent development

Andretti underlined the importance of Indy Lights for IndyCar talent development, even at times when car counts were low. Both the 2018 and 2019 seasons saw grids with less than ten full-time cars, but Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay and Oliver Askew all graduated to IndyCar from Lights during those seasons. Herta is now the lead driver for Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar squad.

“I believe it’s the foundation for our series. You look at the talent that comes out of it every year. 90 percent of our drivers have come through that. That’s where our future stars are. That’s where the future is of our sport. For me, it was very important that we keep it alive in any way we could.”

“There were times when we only had like eight or nine cars, but I’ll tell you out of eight or nine cars, five or six of them were very, very tough drivers, and even though it didn’t look like it was a big — great series, it really was because it still trained the guys that were running at the front.”

“If you have 20 cars out there, you’re still going to have those same five guys fighting it out in the front anyway. I think the series has been a big, big part of the success of IndyCar. Just look at the talent that came out of it. All these young kids, these future — they’re already stars, and it’s because of Indy Lights. Had we not had that training ground, we might not have that talent in this series.”

Europe

He added that he expects more drivers from Europe to have a serious look at Lights. 

“I really believe that with this now being under the IndyCar umbrella again, it’s going to draw a lot more people. A lot more drivers that are coming up are going to look at it instead of going, say, to Formula 2. I think you’re going to see people coming over, because they know that you have a better shot at making it to IndyCars through Indy Lights, than you do going through the ladder system in Europe to get to Formula 1. I see the future being very, very bright for Indy Lights.”

Photo credit: Gavin Baker

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