Indy Lights Teams Prepare For Phoenix Oval Test
Interest in the revitalized Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires continues to gather pace in advance of the new season which commences next month in St. Petersburg, Fla.
A high-quality field of 16 drivers representing 10 nations and no fewer than four different continents are set to convene tomorrow, Thursday, February 25, at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., for a one-day test session as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series “Test in the West”. All are anxious to gain some experience on the tricky one-mile oval which will host its first Indy Lights race since 2005 on April 2.
Indy Lights represents the third and final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, which provides Mazda scholarships for drivers to graduate from karting via the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires to Indy Lights and the Verizon IndyCar Series.
This year’s competitors will be seeking to follow in the footsteps of Spencer Pigot. The American rising star has won a total of four Mazda scholarships, including a scholarship valued at $1 million for winning last year’s Indy Lights title. Pigot is scheduled to make his IndyCar debut in the opening race of the season at St. Petersburg on March 13, and will contest at least two more events, including the historic 100th Indianapolis 500.
The Indy Lights field contains an impressive mix of veterans and rookies. Among those with prior experience are Zach Veach, from Stockdale, Ohio, who will make his return to the series with Belardi Auto Racing after finishing third in the 2014 title-chase; Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones (Carlin), who finished third in his rookie campaign in 2015; Carlin teammate Felix Serralles, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, the winner last year on the flat Milwaukee Mile oval; Florida teenager RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb Agajanian), who won last year at Mid-Ohio; and 2015 podium finishers Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), from Nashville, Tenn., Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, Calif., and Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) from Bogota, Colombia.
A talented crop of rookies will include Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing), the reigning FIA European Formula 3 Champion and two-time winner of the prestigious Macau Grand Prix; Englishman Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport), formerly a champion in FIA Formula 2 and runner-up in the 2014 GP3 Series; GP2 Series veteran Andre Negrao (Schmidt Peterson), from Sao Paulo, Brazil; 2015 Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia, from Miguelete, Uruguay, who will take his Mazda Scholarship to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian; Californian Neil Alberico (Carlin), who finished second in last year’s Pro Mazda championship with four victories; fellow Pro Mazda graduate Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), from Toronto, Ont., Canada; 2013 USF2000 champion and 2014 Pro Mazda runner-up Scott Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who joins Team Pelfrey after tasting the waters with a couple of outings in 2015; Korean Heamin Choi (Schmidt Peterson), who made two starts in the 2015 season finale; and Formula Renault 2.0 graduate Zachary Claman De Melo (Juncos Racing) of Montreal, Canada.
Following tomorrow’s test at PIR, the Indy Lights teams will join the remainder of the Mazda Road to Indy competitors for a Spring Training open test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 18-race 2016 season will kick off less than one week later with a double-header on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.