Seeking to create a defined path for young, career-minded race drivers to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, the Indy Racing League has launched the “Road to Indy,” a developmental ladder system that includes Firestone Indy Lights, The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda.
"In creating the 'Road to Indy,' we are trying to bridge the gap between the premier open-wheel racing divisions and the entry level open-wheel series by creating a clear career path for aspiring racing drivers," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the Indy Racing League, which sanctions the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. "With the 'Road to Indy,' a driver has the opportunity to hone his professional racing skills at an early stage of his or her career and has a chance to build upon those skills in a professional environment while driving similar-style, open-wheel racing vehicles on similar tracks at every step."
Drivers from each of the affiliated "Road to Indy" series will have the opportunity to progress to the next level of the ladder system through participation in programs put together by each series or the Indy Racing League, which also will sanction USF2000 National Championship races.
All three affiliated series will offer the challenge of racing on ovals, road courses and temporary street circuits, and program participants will have the opportunity to showcase their drivers and teams in front of IZOD IndyCar Series teams and owners each year. In 2010, all three series that make up the "Road to Indy" program will join the IZOD IndyCar Series at the Streets of St. Petersburg and Iowa Speedway.
Additionally, all four series will conduct events in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend with Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda and Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear racing at O'Reilly Raceway Park at the "Night Before the 500."
"The Indy Racing League is open-wheel racing here in North America, and it is my great privilege to work with them again in the creation of a true ladder for young drivers to follow," said Dan Andersen, co-owner and chief executive officer, Andersen Promotions, administrator of the Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda. "There is finally a clearly defined path to a career in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and I am looking forward to seeing many of tomorrow's IZOD IndyCar Series stars racing with us in the USF2000 series in 2010."
"Today's announcement is a formidable milestone in the 20th year of our history as a development series," said Star Mazda founder Gary Rodrigues. "For the Star Mazda Championship to be honored with a formalized position in the pathway to an IZOD IndyCar Series driving career is not only gratifying to us, but provides a clarity that open-wheel drivers and fans have long been seeking. Now young driving talent can know where they need to be and where they are trying to go. Race fans can now determine where to watch for tomorrow's stars.
"I am convinced that everybody in our sport wins with this program. The best new talent can build their motorsports careers. Race fans in North America eventually get to see them in Indy cars."