On this day in 2002, IndyCar's new support series made its debut. The IRL Infiniti Pro Series, as it was then known, raced its first event at the Kansas Speedway. IPS didn't necessarily replace Indy Lights – then called Dayton Indy Lights and running under CART sanction through its last year in 2001 – but it evolved into the same type of series under the same name within a few seasons.
At Kansas, a then 18-year-old named A.J. Foyt IV won from pole in his first race, ahead of actor and part-time racer Jason Priestley and former IndyCar racer Cory Witherill. It was the first of four wins for Foyt in the 2002 season, a seven-race schedule, where he easily cruised to the first IPS championship.
Of the 12 drivers in the race, four made it to the IndyCar ranks – although only Foyt and Ed Carpenter showed any signs of maturing into regulars. They both debuted in 2003, Foyt for the full season with his grandfather's team and Carpenter with PDM Racing in a handful of late season events.
Meanwhile, the other two, Marty Roth and Arie Luyendyk Jr., failed to make much of a dent on the championship. Roth ran part-time for four years (2004-'07) before a full season run in '08; Luyendyk had only the 2006 Indianapolis 500 start on his record, but he would set the mark for most starts in IPS, later Firestone Indy Lights, history with 66 in nine seasons.
Priestley never topped his best result, as he had a life-threatening and career-ending crash at Kentucky later that year. The Canadian fully recovered and made a one-off IndyCar team ownership appearance in 2008 with the Rubicon Race Team, which failed to qualify for that year's Indianapolis 500 with driver Max Papis.
Others in the race included eventual Indy Lights team owner Gary Petersen, one-time Champ Car racer Matt Halliday, along with Mike Koss, G.J. Mennen, Ronnie Johncox and Aaron Fike.
Ten years later, Indy Lights is still utilizing the same car, and had its most recent race at Toronto feature all of 11 starter. A new car and engine package is on the horizon for 2014.