Starting in 2023, the top developmental category of the NTT IndyCar Series will no longer be known as Indy Lights. The series will now be officially known as Indy NXT by Firestone.
The rebrand and name change to Indy NXT comes after IndyCar reassumed direct control of the development series’ promotion and management late last year. Indy NXT will continue to develop and prepare driving talent to make the step up to the IndyCar Series while closing its ties with the parent championship. Along with the rebrand, Firestone will also become the tire supplier of Indy NXT alongside supplying the IndyCar Series. Though, I’m slightly disappointed to see the Light name disappear.
The Indy Lights name was a less-than-subtle reference to the Big Cars, IndyCar’s other and now-antiqued colloquial nickname. The origin of the Big Cars moniker harkens back to the early 1900s, before the construction of Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. The American Automobile Association (AAA), the then-national governing body of motorsport, divided racing cars into classes by vehicle weight with the heaviest class being the fastest and most prestigious, hence the Big Cars. The Indy Lights brand first appeared in 1991 as a rebrand of the developmental American Racing Series.
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While the move away from the Lights name is understandable, the choice of Indy NXT is baffling for an obvious reason. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has had a popular developmental promotion and television program also called NXT since 2010. One might assume that a naming conflict between an open-wheel racing series and a pro wrestling promotion isn’t a real problem, but that might not be the case.
IndyCar and WWE also share a television partner, NBC. IndyCar Series races and NXT are both broadcast on the USA Network, an NBCUniversal property. Weekly episodes of NXT have aired on USA since 2019, the same year NBC gained the exclusive broadcast rights for the NTT IndyCar Series. Indy NXT won’t have its races air on television, but the 14-race 2023 season will be available to watch on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service.
I genuinely wonder if IndyCar executives consulted with its television partner over the potential confusion between NXT and Indy NXT. IndyCar’s top development series had struggled in recent years to attract entries but is rebounding to feature a field of almost 20 cars for the 2023 season. Now, isn’t the time to create a problem where viewers and potential sponsors have issues differentiating your brand from a nearly identically named brand in professional wrestling.