INDY NXT takes over as INDYCAR’s top development series

INDY NXT by Firestone will be the top rung of the INDYCAR development pathway
INDY NXT by Firestone will be the top rung of the INDYCAR development pathway

The final step to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has a new name. What was most recently known as Indy Lights is now INDY NXT By Firestone and will, for the 2023 season, feature a 14-race schedule, together with Peacock streaming, just like its big brother.

The Indy Lights series, conceived and started by the great Roger Bailey as the American Racing Series, has been training drivers for the challenge of Indy car racing since 1986. The name change to Indy Lights came in 1991 and achieved Firestone Tire and later Dayton Tire (a Firestone subsidiary) sponsorship. Always a spec series that aimed to prepare drivers for the tracks and cars used, initially by CART, then by Champ Car and later by INDYCAR, ARS/Indy Lights has groomed hundreds of drivers of the years by closely following the CART and INDYCAR schedules.

As CART began losing money towards the end of the century, its Atlantic Series became more prominent, forcing CART to cancel Indy Lights after the 2001 season. That opened the door for the Indy Racing League (IRL) to take over ownership of the brand, which it called the Infiniti Pro Series. IRL team ownerJohn Menard  lent his company’s name and funding to the series until 2006, when both Menard and Nissan (Infiniti) departed.

When CART’s final incarnation, Champ Car, was acquired by the Indy Racing League, the Indy Pro Series in 2008 once again reverted to Indy Lights, which had as its centerpiece the Freedom 100, held on the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) 2.5-mile oval. In 2013, driver Peter Dempsey won that race with the closest finish in IMS history in a four-wide drag race to the checkered flags. The margin of victory was a scant 0.0026 seconds.

Andersen Promotions took over promotion of Indy Lights in 2014 and held that workload until this past season, when INDYCAR took over both the promotional and operations management of Indy Lights. This assumption of the series’ management allowed integration of paddock spaces, marketing, digital assets and race officiating for both the feeder series and for the INDYCAR series. The 2023 INDY NXT season should provide additional opportunities for INDYCAR, as a sanctioning body and race officiating group, to inspire and relate to Generation Z and the young talent driving these cars.

Over the years, the series has promoted some well-known drivers as its champions, some of whom have become team owners: Eric Bachelart, Robbie Buhl, Bryan Herta, the late Greg Moore, Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta, current pace car driver Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon, Townsend Bell, A.J. Foyt IV, J.R. Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier, Sage Karma, Gabby Chaves, Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones, Kyle Kaiser, Pato O’Ward, Oliver Askew, Kyle Kirkwood and, this year’s champion Linus Lundqvist. All of these champions have either raced and won in Indy cars and/or sports cars since achieving their Indy Lights titles.

In its new incarnation, INDY NXT should be able to launch another generation of open-wheel racing stars, with the promotional ties to Firestone, which is also the official tire supplier and longtime partner of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The objective is to emphasize talent development, while also extending racing’s impact to a younger and emerging consumer audience.

The 2023 INDY NXT schedule will begin concurrently with the start of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES campaign, starting March 5th on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Like INDYCAR, NXT competes on a variety of ovals, street courses and permanent road course tracks. 

“We look forward to being part of the journey, as INDY NXT enters a new era and expands our partnership with INDYCAR,” said Lisa Boggs, director of motorsports for Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone Americas. “Having been in the series previously, we know how important it is for the development of the next generation of drivers, and we are proud to support them again. INDY NXT provides opportunities for Firestone to engage with new audiences and develop and showcase our technology,” she said.

The 2022 season saw an expansion of teams and car counts; INDYCAR fully expects to build on that momentum, with the highest entry list for the development series since the 2009 season, when it fully became a member of the INDYCAR family. “INDY NXT by Firestone will continue to develop and graduate new generations of racers, ready to emerge in breathtaking, high-stakes competition,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president. “Firestone is the perfect parter in this endeavor, with its innovative technology and authentic appreciation for INDY NXT and its vast potential.”

All INDY NXT races are set to be streamed by Peacock; further broadcasting could be announced at a later date. Race start times have not been announced and will be confirmed well before the season starts.

SCHEDULE

Sunday, March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg

Sunday, April 30 Barber Motorsports Park

Friday, May 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Race 1

Saturday, May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Race 2

Saturday, June 3 Streets of Detroit – Race 1

Sunday, June 4 Streets of Detroit – Race 2

Sunday, June 18 Road America

Sunday, July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Saturday, July 22 Iowa Speedway

Sunday, August 6 Streets of Nashville

Sunday, August 27 World Wide Technology Raceway

Sunday, Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway

Saturday, Sept. 9 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Race 1

Sunday, Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – Race 2

About Anne Proffit 1268 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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