Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist is a quadruple single-seater champion, clinching the 2022 INDY NXT championship, the 2020 Formula Regional Americas title, the 2018 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship and the 2016 Formula STCC Nordic crown. In 2024, he will race the #8 American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
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After a year on the sidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Indy Lights returns in 2021 – and it does so in force as some of the hottest properties in American junior racing congregate on the INDYCAR support grid. This is your guide to the season ahead…
After a year on the sidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Indy Lights returns in 2021 – and it does so in force as some of the hottest properties in American junior racing congregate on the INDYCAR support grid.
With the season-opener rapidly approaching at Barber Motorsports Park, we take a closer look at the ins and outs of Indy Lights, guiding you through all you need to know ahead of Linus’ much-anticipated debut in the championship in just two weeks’ time…
What is it?
As the main INDYCAR support and feeder series, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the undisputed springboard towards the top tier of U.S. single-seater racing. It is the highest rung on the Road to Indy career progression path, racing on the same weekends as the big league.
Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the Road to Indy ladder system including the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Using a European reference, Indy Lights is the equivalent of Formula 2 in the USA.
Who has raced in it?
Almost everyone in INDYCAR! As a matter of fact, 70 % of the drivers in last year’s Indianapolis 500 graduated from Indy Lights – and all but three of the 34 series champions have made the subsequent step to the top. These include the likes of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden, just to mention a select few.
All in all, more than a whopping 100 drivers have moved up from Indy Lights to INDYCAR, with next-gen sensations Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay among some of the most recent graduates.
Another alumni of Indy Lights is Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist, who contested a partial campaign in 2016 and remains the only Swede to have ever won an Indy Lights race. Will that change in 2021?
What’s at stake?
As part of an extensive and increased series prize package, the 2021 Indy Lights champion will be awarded a scholarship to race in at least three INDYCAR events in 2022, including the Indianapolis 500 (valued at $1,289,425). Meanwhile, the top three drivers in the championship will each be awarded an INDYCAR test at the conclusion of the season.
Who’s on the grid?
The 2021 grid is arguably one of the most competitive in years. There are 13 cars currently entered, with potential for more to join later in the season, and there is plenty of strength in depth with several experienced drivers and multiple champions.
Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports
For a start, there is Linus’ own team: Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports. The merged squad – managed by Global’s Christian Pedersen and HMD’s Henry Malukas – is fielding a quartet of cars in 2021, taking on Linus and Nikita Lastochkin alongside the owners’ sons Benjamin Pedersen and David Malukas.
Interestingly, Malukas was Linus’ main opponent in Formula Regional Americas last year, finishing second in the standings and winning the only two races not claimed by Linus.
Previous to that, Malukas had worked his way up the Road to Indy ladder, racing in both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 (then named Pro Mazda) before finally entering Indy Lights in 2019. In his first year in the championship, Malukas picked up two podiums and finished sixth overall, making him the most seasoned driver in the team at this level.
Lastochkin is another experienced Road to Indy competitor, spending two years in USF2000 (2015-2016) and three in Indy Pro 2000 (2017-2019) ahead of his Indy Lights progression this season.
Pedersen, meanwhile, has also attained plenty of seat time in U.S. single-seater racing, both in F4 and F3/FR Americas – taking second in the latter in 2019. Adding to that, the Danish-American has also partaken in the BRDC British F3 Championship in each of the last two seasons, winning a race for Double R Racing – with which Linus clinched the British F3 title in 2018 – last year.
Linus is entered with start number #26.
The other four-car team on the grid is Indy Lights powerhouse Andretti Autosport, the junior offshoot of the race-winning INDYCAR operation.
Inevitably, a lot of people would expect Andretti’s line-up to be spearheaded by Kyle Kirkwood – already a multiple scholarship winner and champion at every previous level.
After winning the F4 U.S. title in 2017, Kirkwood started out on the Road to Indy platform in 2018, immediately dominating USF2000 with 12 wins from 14 races. For the avoidance of doubt, he also wrapped up the F3 Americas Championship (later rebadged as Formula Regional Americas) in that same year, setting a record of 15 wins that few believed would ever be matched until Linus did so in 2020.
For 2019, Kirkwood stepped up to Indy Pro 2000 and won nine of the last 11 races en route to a fourth title in just three years. Kirkwood was originally set to debut in Indy Lights last year, but shifted to a partial IMSA sportscar campaign when the series was put on hold due to COVID-19.
Lining up alongside Kirkwood at Andretti are Robert Megennis (who already has an Indy Lights victory to his name from the Indianapolis road course in 2019), Singapore’s Danial Frost, and Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco and Frost finished second and third respectively in last year’s Indy Pro 2000 standings, beaten only by…
…Sting Ray Robb. The reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion remains with Juncos Racing for his step up to Indy Lights, and is the third scholarship driver on the grid alongside Linus and Kyle Kirkwood thanks to his $600,000+ bonus for last year’s IP2000 title win.
Juncos Racing’s second car will be driven by Englishman Toby Sowery, entering his second Indy Lights season after clinching one win back in 2019.
2021 will be the year in which Linus resumes his rivalry with Trevor Carlin’s famous operation, with which he constantly battled in Europe in 2017-2019. The British team is returning to Indy Lights this season after winning the title with current INDYCAR racer Ed Jones in 2016.
The two Carlin machines are set to be raced by Christian Bogle – who makes a big step up from USF2000 – and Australia’s Alex Peroni, whose career in Europe over the past five seasons included a Formula Renault Eurocup victory on the streets of Monaco in 2018.
A one-car team for Antonio Serravalle, Canada, will also take to the grid this season.
The Dallara IL-15 is a collaboration between Dallara’s Italian headquarters in Varano Melegari (Parma) and Dallara LLC in Speedway, Indiana. It is powered by an Advanced Engine Research (AER) 2.0-litre I-4 turbocharged engine which produces 450 bhp, with an additional 50 bhp available through push-to-pass activation.
The car features a six-speed, paddle-shift transmission, drive-by-wire throttle control and advanced engine management electronics.
The top speed exceeds 330 km/h / 210 mph.
All cars are shod with spec Coopertyres.
The 2021 Indy Lights schedule takes in ten championship rounds, all on the INDYCAR support bill, and features a mixture of road course, street track and oval events. The latter will provide a brand new experience for Linus, who is yet to ever drive on an oval. There is, however, just one oval round in 2021 – at Gateway in August.
The calendar in full:
15-18 April Barber Motorsports Park (USA) | Road course
23-25 April St. Petersburg (USA) | Street track
13-15 May Indianapolis Motor Speedway (USA) | Road course
11-13 June Detroit Belle Isle (USA) | Street track
18-20 June Road America (USA) | Road course
2-4 July Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (USA) | Road course
9-11 July Toronto (Canada) | Street track
19-21 August Gateway (USA) | Oval
10-12 September Portland (USA) | Road course
17-19 September Laguna Seca (USA) | Road course
The sole official pre-season series test, also known as Spring Training, takes place at Barber Motorsports Park on April 6.
Indy Lights boasts a relatively straightforward event format, with practice, two qualifying sessions and two races at each championship round.
Practice holds no other bearing than to simply prepare the teams and drivers for the more crucial parts of the weekend. This one session lasts for 40-45 minutes, with all eyes on set-up work and not so much so on the stopwatch.
Following next are two, separate, 30-minute qualifying sessions. Here, it’s all about setting the fastest possible lap time. Qualifying 1 forms the grid for Race 1, while Qualifying 2 shapes the order for Race 2.
The race distances vary from track to track, but sits somewhere between 30-60 minutes. There are rolling starts and no pit stops.
All races count towards the championship. There is also a team championship, utilizing a slightly different points table to that seen below. Single-car teams will be awarded three bonus points in the team championship to help with the equality to multiple-car teams. Only the two best results will count in the team championship for teams fielding more than two entries.
Pole position: 1 bonus point Most laps led: 1 bonus point
Road/street course events
Indy Lights champions
A.J. Foyt IV
Cristiano da Matta
Indy Lights milestones
Most wins in a season
Most poles in a season
Most podiums in a season
How can I watch it?
As recently announced, all sessions of the 2021 Indy Lights season will be live streamed in house at www.linuslundqvistracing.se. Streaming will also be available through the championship’s official website, www.indylights.com, in regions outside the U.S. in addition to RoadToIndy.TV and the Road to Indy TV App. In the U.S., coverage can be found on Peacock Premium and on REV TV in Canada.
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