Andretti disappointed his IndyCar rivals ignore Indy Lights
Michael Andretti says he’s pleased Penske Entertainment has taken over the Indy Lights series but believes there’s a need for incentives for IndyCar teams to expand downward.
Andretti Autosport (née Andretti Green Racing) first entered the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship in 2008 and has won five championships including the last three.
However, it is the only well-established IndyCar team that maintains a solid presence in the Road To Indy, since Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (now Arrow McLaren SP) shut down the junior open-wheel arm of its operation at the end of 2016.
Next year, Juncos Hollinger Racing and Carlin – likely in partnership – will run cars in both IndyCar and Indy Lights, but Andretti Autosport’s other rivals, while running cars in other branches of the sport, have not recently been tempted by the IndyCar feeder series.
After praising Andersen Promotions for “keeping [Lights] alive all these years”, Michael Andretti said: “I was happy that we were able to finally talk Roger into looking at Indy Lights and now taking it over: I think is 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… I see the future being very, very bright for Indy Lights.”
He described Lights as “the foundation for our series… 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 great series, it really was because it still trained the guys that were running at the front… 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.”
Asked directly why other teams have not followed his example, Andretti responded: “That is a great question. I'm very disappointed in some of the bigger teams that they don't support it more.
“In fact, I always push for them to come up with rules to give incentives to the bigger teams to get into the series because 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. I'm disappointed that we don't have more support from the other team owners.”
It’s a subject he says he could raise with Roger Penske now that Penske Entertainment Corp. owns the series.
“I didn't have any direct conversation with him about it, but I may. I would love to see him be one of the teams to do it! But I don't know, for some reason Roger never really looked at it. I don't know why. He does [NASCAR] Xfinity, and then he does Cup, so why don't you do that in IndyCar, as well? I don't know what his reasons are. I would love to see him do it because I'm sure if he did it then it would probably draw more of the other teams to do it…
“I want to see it be a major support of the IndyCar Series. I'd like to see us race at most of the races that the IndyCars do. I'm sure we probably won't be at all of them. I'd like to see a good five-year plan with it to try to control the costs. I think that's always a big thing – how do we control the costs? Jay [Frye, IndyCar president] has been good at that, and hopefully with him getting more involved, that might help for the future.
“I really believe that with [Lights] now being under the IndyCar umbrella again, it's going to draw a lot more people, a lot more drivers that are coming through that are going to look at it instead of going, say, to Formula 2. I think they're going to look at Indy Lights a lot harder.”
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