The Indy Lights series is the last rung on the Road to Indy ladder that filters new talent into the IndyCar series. It has always provided great incentives for winners of the series, but after it was cancelled due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, its future was a little bit up in the air. But this week, the series confirmed it will be back in 2021, and it’ll be better than ever before.
In the past, the winner of the Indy Lights series received a million-dollar scholarship and three guaranteed entries in the following IndyCar season, including the Indy 500. That latter part will remain, but the prize will be increased to $1,250,000.
Now, in addition, IndyCar tests will also be provided for the top three drivers in points. That basically gives promising drivers the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an IndyCar, since the high points-scoring drivers often find themselves in the top-level scouting pool. The champion may be guaranteed a few races, but the other drivers haven’t had a chance to see what an IndyCar is like until they sign with a team. Now, they’ll be able to get some experience under their belts.
Honda Performance Development, too, has offered a new incentive for drivers. The driver who wins the FR Regional Americas Championship—or, the Formula 3 series contested entirely within the United States with Honda engines—also earns a free ride in the Indy Lights series in 2021. Linus Lundqvist, who won 12 of 14 events this year, will be taking that available seat.
It’s a great thing to see the Road to Indy ladder will be back for 2021. Its scholarship format has proved effective, with Indy Lights serving as the final step to launch promising talent into IndyCar (see: Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward, and Josef Newgarden). Its revitalization is important to the continuing existence of the American open-wheel racing scene.