While Indy Lights has gone through a few messy weeks recently, interest in the series remains high. With 18 cars solidly on our radar for 2023, here’s the rundown of who we think will end up where.
By Jeroen Demmendaal
It’s been a topsy turvy time for Indy Lights in recent weeks. The series comes off its first season under Penske Entertainment and IndyCar stewardship, which was seen by many as the start of a new era. There’s a lot to celebrate: car counts are up, more IndyCar teams are involved with Lights, the 2022 season was exciting and Lights drivers are graduating to the NTT IndyCar Series.
At the same time, there’s also a plenty left to be desired. F1 Feeder Series reported last month that the fallout from the winner’s banquet has been messy. When it became clear that 2022 champion Linus Lundqvist would only receive $500,000 instead of the usual $1.2 million – less than what Louis Foster earned with his Indy Pro 2000 title – frustration reigned. Several teams expressed their displeasure and Lights leadership now has a problem to fix if it doesn’t want to stunt its own growth.
On top of that, the IndyCar test for the top-3 in Indy Lights has apparently also been scrapped. We’re now in a situation where all sorts of rookies, from Argentinian touring car aces to IMSA winners to Formula E drivers, get IndyCar seat time in coming weeks, while the reigning Lights champ is on the sidelines. Meanwhile, the fifth-placed driver in this year’s Lights standings graduates to IndyCar, while the champ still has no clear path of doing the same. Surely, that’s not how things should be.
Having said that, interest in Indy Lights remains hot. As indicated before, we expect at least 18 cars on the 2023 grid, with as many as 20 under the most optimistic scenario. So let’s run down the field and tell you what we’ve learned so far. Standard silly season disclaimer: final results may vary.
What do we know? Hunter McElrea will return for a second year with the team. The young Kiwi finished fourth overall in his first season in Lights, securing rookie of the year honours with two wins and five more podium finishes. British driver Louis Foster, the reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion who won the series in his rookie year, has also been signed already.
What have we heard? By all accounts, Jamie Chadwick had a successful Lights test with the team last month and the series would love to have her. Based on what our sources tell us, she’s the prime candidate for the third car, assuming the financial issues within W Series don’t thwart her chances.
The big question mark is the fourth car. A variety of drivers, including Reece Gold and Josh Pierson, are said to have shown an interest in the seat at some point, but will go elsewhere. Hence Matthew Brabham may return for a second year, or maybe this is the landing spot for a certain American FIA Formula 3 driver who is seriously looking at Lights for 2023.
What do we know? The Lights powerhouse will become a bit more powerhouse-y, fielding no less than eight cars in 2023. So far, HMD has announced five drivers: Christian Bogle and Danial Frost will continue with the team, while Christian Rasmussen joins from Andretti for his sophomore year. American teenagers Nolan Siegel and Josh Green make the step up from Indy Pro 2000.
What have we heard? That leaves three seats left to announce, one of which is a slightly cheeky one: we understand Force Indy and Ernie Francis Jr will move their team under the wings of HMD as of next season. Another seat will go to Kyffin Simpson, the youngster from the Cayman Islands who switched to HMD from TJ Speed halfway through the 2022 season.
As for the final driver, our intel suggests it will be Josh Pierson. The Oregon youngster, still only 17 years old, has already agreed to do another season in WEC and may miss a few Lights races as a result, but a part-time campaign in 2023 is the perfect preparation for a full-time run in 2024.
Juncos Hollinger Racing
What do we know? Formally, all Juncos Hollinger Racing has announced is that it will return to Indy Lights with two cars in 2023. For loyal F1 Feeder Series followers, that announcement won’t have come as a surprise since we reported it several weeks in advance.
What have we heard? All signs point at Reece Gold staying with the team as it returns to the highest step on the Road to Indy. The Floridian has had lots of success with Juncos Hollinger in Indy Pro 2000 and is a logical choice to lead the line. The only thing missing is a formal announcement.
As for the second car, here things are less clear. The team has looked at a variety of candidates, including Formula 2 star Juri Vips, but with the Estonian reportedly heading elsewhere, he’s no longer an option. Instead, it seems like Swedish star-in-waiting Rasmus Lindh is close to securing a return with the team he knows so well from previous years. Another possibility is Enaam Ahmed, who ran in Indy Pro 2000 alongside Gold and is also looking to move into Lights.
What do we know? Abel usually doesn’t really do formal announcements: they simply post testing pictures on social media, then show up in the paddock and do their thing. But if Jacob Abel doesn’t return for a second year in Indy Lights with his eponymous team, we will eat our yellow shower curtain. Meanwhile the search is on for a full-time teammate in 2023.
What have we heard? For that second car, we understand a few Indy Pro 2000 graduates are in play. Colin Kaminsky tested a Lights car with the team earlier this year and is looking for sponsors, while Jack William Miller is reportedly driving with the team at the Chris Griffis test at Indianapolis later this month. Miller’s solid financial backing may just make him the likeliest option at this point.
What do we know? Former USF2000 giants Cape Motorsports are embarking on their first fully independent Indy Lights campaign in 2023. The team has signed Jagger Jones as the first of two drivers – the young American, grandson of Indy 500 winner Parnelli, is also a USF2000 graduate.
What have we heard? The rumour mill around Cape’s second car has been pretty quiet so far, but one name that keeps popping up is that of Kiko Porto, the 2021 USF2000 champion. Having had an up-and-down rookie year in Indy Pro 2000, however, he would benefit from a second year there. So here too, Enaam Ahmed might be a suitable candidate.
What do we know? Very little. The team pulled out of USF2000 halfway through the season, then announced its ambition to enter Indy Lights in 2023 with two cars. Since then, it’s been quiet. Legacy has a bit of history with announcing ambitious plans which then come to naught, so who knows.
What have we heard? Even less. The biggest question is whether Legacy will be on the grid at all next year, with some series insiders skeptical about their chances, let alone with two cars. Wait and see is the name of the game here.
Header photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography
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