DETROIT (Dec. 10) - The PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship has signed a letter of agreement with the North American Collegiate Racing Association (NACRA) in an effort to develop university- and collegiate-based teams and competition in CART's top development series in the coming years, Indy Lights President Roger Bailey and NACRA Founder/President Scott Morris announced today.
Long-term plans for NACRA include the formation of a collegiate motorsports system that will feature university- and college-owned teams operated by students in curriculum-based programs racing in Indy Lights as soon as the 2001 season. The collegiate teams will compete in their own class while also running for overall honors in Indy Lights races.
"We are issuing a challenge to all North American colleges and universities to bring their competitive rivalries to one of the few playing fields that provides a true cross between classroom-based education and the athletic skills of traditional college-based sports," Morris said. "Students from varying degree programs - from mechanical and computer engineering to sports marketing and public relations - now have an unprecedented opportunity to use these skills while competing in a major collegiate sport during their education."
Similar to the role Indy Lights fills in CART's Ladder System of driver development, the series would be part of a three-tiered program of progression within the NACRA system. Programs within NACRA are also being developed for the American Junior Karting League and the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series. Educational scholarships and credit-based curriculum for specific degree programs are also planned by NACRA for all levels of series competition.
"We are very pleased to join with NACRA in taking the first step in developing a solid collegiate-based presence in Indy Lights," Bailey said. "This series approach is certainly new territory for both Indy Lights and motorsports in general, but we are hopeful that more than one university will see the benefits of an association with CART, Indy Lights and NACRA. We look forward to working with NACRA to make this exciting program a reality."
Entering its 15th year of competition in the year 2000, the Indy Lights championship is the final stop for aspiring drivers and teams bound for the FedEx Championship Series. Drivers competing in CART's top-level Champ Car division who raced and won in Indy Lights include Paul Tracy (1990 Indy Lights champion), Adrian Fernandez (1992 Indy Lights Rookie of the Year), Bryan Herta (1993 Indy Lights champion), Tony Kanaan (1997 Indy Lights champion), Cristiano da Matta (1998 Indy Lights champion) and Helio Castro-Neves. Additionally, the late Greg Moore (1995 Indy Lights champion) holds the all-time Indy Lights career victory record with 13.
The 12-race 2000 Indy Lights race schedule opens on April 16 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and concludes, Dec. 3, with a new event at the Aruba Motorsports Complex on the Island of Aruba.