TRACKING THE CHANGES: Indy Lights Silly Season
From one season to the next, the Mazda Road to Indy is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition.
The 2018 campaign will be no different, so let’s review where things stand as of January 2, 2017.
After scoring a pair of wins last season, starting off the year with a victory at St. Petersburg, before winning the wet season finale at Watkins Glen, Aaron Telitz announced he will be back with Belardi Auto Racing in 2018.
As of right now, the American has put together a partial budget for the year, with continued efforts being put in to put enough marketing partners together for all 10 events. The 26-year-old will begin the year at St. Petersburg, and go as far as his budget allows him to do so.
After winning the 2017 championship with Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing confirmed that they will field three entries in 2018, but has yet to begin confirming their line-up. They did state that they have two drivers ready to go, and have began searching for their third.
The belief would be that Victor Franzoni is one of those three as he won the 2017 Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires Championship with Juncos Racing, which gives him a scholarship from Mazda to run the full Indy Lights schedule with the Red Soul livery.
Speaking of Kaiser, he will move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series with his scholarship from the 2017 Indy Lights title, set to run at least four events for Juncos Racing. Kaiser told POPULAR OPEN WHEEL (POW) that there’s “definitely a possibility” to add more races for the schedule, adding “the team and myself are working very hard to find additional funding.”
When POW talked to Pato O’Ward in November, he stated that he wanted to race in Indy Lights once again and was “working on some things,” but did “not have anything yet.” O’Ward ran four events last season after a runner-up in the Pro Mazda Championship in 2016.
O’Ward added being able to get the opportunity to run full-time in Indy Lights would be great.
“I’ve always been focused on open-wheel stuff, and I wasn’t able to keep that going last year so I did some prototype stuff,” he said. “I’d love to keep the prototype stuff going and re-open the door to open-wheel and dabble on both sides.”
Colton Herta confirmed that he will be back full-time for the second straight year, driving for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, in hopes of taking home the championship.
“It would be a lot of weight off of my shoulders,” he told POW in November. “I think the Steinbrenners want to move up to IndyCar in the next few years, and this would be a huge boost because we get the million dollar. It would make things a lot smoother and cheaper as well.”
After placing seventh in last year’s standings, Nico Jamin has yet to commit to returning to the series in 2018. He competed last year with Andretti Autosport, but took part in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test with Belardi Auto Racing.
“We’re exploring different possibilities right now,” Jamin told POW in November. “We’re obviously talking with Belardi Auto Racing to try to be in back in Indy Lights to try and fight for a title. But we’re also looking at the possibilities outside of single-seaters, so in sports cars for some prototype or GT stuff. So the options are pretty open to me right now, pretty wide, and the off-season will be long. I would like to be back in Indy Lights to fight for a title, but if that doesn’t happen, I will probably go sports car racing and that’ll be an amazing opportunity for me as well.”
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