Mazda Raceway to Host Road to Indy

Click Here to Begin Slideshow Betcha didn’t know that Mazda, the car company, sponsors something of a “Junior Open Wheel” racing series for up and coming racers similar to NASCAR’s Drive4Diversity program. Unless you study the Indy Series religiously, I’m also betting that you aren’t aware that many of the series’ biggest names got their chance to compete on the big stage by coming up through the ranks of this program. The name of the program is the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire. Since 2010 the program has been providing deserving drivers with a unique path to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. This path is funded by generous scholarships provided by Mazda and Cooper Tire.

Mazda Raceway to Host Road to Indy

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Betcha didn’t know that Mazda, the car company, sponsors something of a “Junior Open Wheel” racing series for up and coming racers similar to NASCAR’s Drive4Diversity program. Unless you study the Indy Series religiously, I’m also betting that you aren’t aware that many of the series’ biggest names got their chance to compete on the big stage by coming up through the ranks of this program. The name of the program is the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire. Since 2010 the program has been providing deserving drivers with a unique path to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. This path is funded by generous scholarships provided by Mazda and Cooper Tire.

Mazda Raceway Is Also Known as Laguna Seca

“Back in the day,” before big race tracks took on the names of the companies that provided sponsorship money, Mazda Raceway was known as Laguna Seca Raceway. Old timers such as myself still refer to it as Laguna Seca. It’s one of my favorite tracks in all the series because it has a little of everything. The Mazda Road to Indy Shootout will be held on Dec. 6 and 7 there. The race will determine which driver receives the $200,000 Mazda Motorsports scholarship into the 2017 Cooper Tire USF2000 Series.

Exactly Who Has Gone On to Fame and Fortune Through the Series?

Again, just like Drive4Diversity, some of the most recognizable names in Indy racing have climbed the ladder of success through the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire, the Pro Mazda Championship, and on to Indy cars. We’re talking drivers such as Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Helio Castroneves. We’re also talking rising stars like Josef Newgarden (who just signed with Penske to replace Juan Pablo), 2015 Indy Lights Series Champion , and 2015 Rookie of the Year at Indy Gabby Chaves.

Ladder System Attracts Talent from Around the Globe

As can be seen in the list of drivers above, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tire attracts top open wheel driving talent from around the world. Helio and Tony are from Brazil, while Gabby is from Colombia. Scott is an Aussie, while Josef is an American. Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Korea, Finland, Norway, and 11 other countries have all been represented by drivers in the program.

Mazda Road to Indy Hits All the Series Major Courses and Tracks to Fully Test Drivers

Drivers in the series compete on tracks ranging from ovals, to road courses, to temporary street circuits. “The World’s Fastest Spring Break Party,” otherwise known as the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, is one of the races on the circuit. The Barber Motorsports Park and The Brickyard are also stops on the tour. At every stop on the tour, drivers compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series stage which puts them smack in front of the cameras, fans, and, more importantly, team owners, sponsors, and the media.

The Mazda Road to Indy is sanctioned by INDYCAR. The series provides participants valuable experience as they build a resume. The clear path through three development series-Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires - gives them a clear path of progression to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The Progression Followed by All Successful Drivers

Participants start out in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. This series is a revival of the USF2000 Series that ran from 1990 through 2006 and was highly regarded. This series works as an entry-level open-wheel training ground for professional drivers.

Next on the ladder of progression is the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire. This series was previously known as the Star Mazda Championship and is responsible for developing famous Indy drivers such as Marco Andretti, James Hinchiff, Graham Rahal, and Tristan Vautier.

The Progression Followed by All Successful Drivers16C_0568-1

After Pro Mazda, drivers move into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. This series, like NASCAR’s XFINITY Series, has long been a proving ground for those with aspirations to reach the big leagues of the Verizon IndyCar Series. It has graduated over 100 drivers to INDYCAR over the years.

The Progression Followed by All Successful Drivers

James Hinchliffe, IndyCar Series race winner, 2011 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year and program graduate, said, “For so many years, there were too many options in junior formula racing and it was so tough for drivers coming up to make the right decision on where to run. Now, not only is there a clearly defined path, but the Mazda Road to Indy has all the best series that lead so well into one another. All the cars are great learning tools to develop for the next step and now you’ll see drivers arriving at each level a lot more prepared. It speaks volumes to INDYCAR’s commitment to the long term health of open-wheel racing in North America that they have created this system.”

We’d have to agree.

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About Mike Aguilar 184 Articles
Mike's love of cars began in the early 1970's when his father started taking him to his Chevron service station. He's done pretty much everything in the automotive aftermarket from gas station island attendant, parts counter, mechanic, and new and used sales. Mike also has experience in the amateur ranks of many of racing's sanctioning bodies.
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