Gavin Baker

Road to Indy rebrand complete: Goodbye Indy Lights, welcome INDY NXT

2023 is the start of a new era for what we used to call the Road to Indy. Following the rebrand of the lower steps on the ladder towards the NTT IndyCar Series, Indy Lights now also gets a new name.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

After killing off the Road to Indy brand a few weeks ago, Indy Lights owners INDYCAR and Penske Entertainment are now doing the same thing with the venerable and well-recognised “Indy Lights” brand. Starting in 2023, the final ladder series under the NTT IndyCar Series will be called INDY NXT. And yes, that name is indeed pronounced “Next”, but for some reason the “e” is not written out.

Visually, INDY NXT moves the series a lot closer to the IndyCar Series, as part of an ongoing process to move the mothership and its main feeder series ever closer together. Firestone has also been signed up as the new title sponsor for the series. That reflects the switch, starting next season, from Cooper Tires to the Firestone rubber also used in the IndyCar Series.

The rebrand, however, is also part of making the Series Formally Known As Indy Lights “fresh, more youthful and more energetic”, as the official press release puts it. More specifically, the document explains: “The 2023 season will provide an additional opportunity for a reset and a new mission to emerge, guided by an ethos that aims to inspire and relate to Generation Z and the young talent piloting race cars.”

Same schedule in 2023

This writer is not a member of Gen Z, which means the sentence above maybe doesn’t have the intended effect that it will have on younger viewers. What a new mission for INDY NXT means in practice remains to be seen, in other words. It seems safe to assume, however, that the close racing and exciting talent we’ve seen in Indy Lights in recent years will be a feature of INDY NXT as well.

What will definitely stay unchanged in 2023 is the schedule. It’s literally exactly the same as in 2022: the championship will be decided over 14 races at 11 venues, with the IMS road course, the Streets of Detroit and Laguna Seca playing host to a double-header. That continuity is a good thing and all races will be streamed live via Peacock (in the US) and INDYCAR Live (outside of the US).

Meanwhile, car counts will be up considerably, as F1 Feeder Series first reported two months ago. A grid of up to twenty cars in St Petersburg seems possible, with Juncos Hollinger Racing and Cape Motorsports joining the series and HMD Motorsports expanding its fleet to nine cars. A private test at Sebring early next week will feature around 18 cars, including a first on-track appearance by Cape.

Scholarship questions remain

Some question marks remain, however. The widespread confusion around the scholarship package for 2022 Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist and how changes to that package were communicated (or rather, not communicated) is by now well-known. What is less clear is whether INDYCAR and Penske Entertainment will address the remaining dissatisfaction that exists.

F1 Feeder Series has learned that so far, team owners have received no updates about any possible changes to the scholarship package for 2023. A team owner meeting with series leadership is scheduled for next week, however, so it’s likely that any updates will be communicated there.

Another open issue is the views of INDYCAR and Penske on the future of the overall ladder system under the IndyCar Series, and whether the scrapped Road to Indy branding will be replaced by a new umbrella. Here again, plenty of team owners and managers are closely looking towards INDYCAR HQ in Indianapolis. When or if the white smoke comes is anyone’s guess at this moment. 

Header photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography

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