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Firestone Indy Lights is a developmental automobile racing series sanctioned by the Indy Racing League. Previously, another series named Indy Lights filled the same role for CART and ran from 1986 to 1990 as the American Racing Series and Dayton Indy Lights from 1991 to 2001. The IRL-sanctioned current series was founded in 2002 as the Infiniti Pro Series as a way to introduce new talent to the IRL and coincided with Infiniti's departure from the IRL's premier IndyCar Series.

Early origins

During the 1970s, when USAC was the primary sanctioning body for top-level Indy car racing, the ladder of progression began to change. During the early 1960s, open wheel cars were front engined roadsters. The primary ladder series included sprints and midgets. By the end of the decade, and into the 1970s, the cars evolved into rear-engine formula-style machines. Likewise, the feeder series began to follow the same mold.

The SCCA Super Vee and Formula Atlantic series were among the first formula-based ladder series. However, neither had any direct tie to USAC. In 1977, USAC started the "Mini-Indy" series, using Super Vee machines. The series ended after 1980 when USAC stopped sanctioning Indy car races outside of Indianapolismarker.

Following the end of the "Mini Indy" series, the driver pool in the early 1980s to CART and the Indy 500marker was drawn in a largely unorganized fashion amongst Super Vees, Atlantics, SCCA, former Can-Am drivers, sprints, midgets, and even stock cars.

Original series (1986 to 2001)

After a void of an official ladder series for over five years, CART decided to take the effort in-house. The original Indy Lights series was formed as an open-wheeled racing series that acted as a developmental circuit for CART from 1986 to 2001. It was founded in 1986 as the American Racing Series (ARS). The series was renamed Indy Lights in 1991. The CART-sanctioned series became widely popular and secured the title sponsorship of first Firestone (the series' exclusive tire supplier) then Firestone's subsidiary Dayton Tires.

The Indy Lights schedule closely followed that of the CART series, with the noteworthy exception of Indianapolismarker. The series typically had a gap of up to a month while the primary CART teams raced at the Indy 500marker. The races were usually held the morning of the CART series races, as an undercard, support event. In many early years, the Indy Lights series skipped superspeedway races such as Michiganmarker, but eventually it found its way to race there.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, CART was suffering from financial problems. Meanwhile in 1996, the rival Indy Racing League was formed. CART canceled the minor league outright after the 2001 season. By this time the Toyota Atlantic series was equally effective in providing CART with new drivers. In addition, the Atlantics served as a springboard for such drivers as Greg Ray, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Richie Hearn to enter the IRL. The Atlantics effectively became CART's primary feeder system, and later became Champ Car World Series' official in-house feeder championship for a time. The series' championship winners include two CART champions, two IndyCar Series champions, seven CCWS race-winners and two Formula One drivers.

A spec-series, CART Indy Lights used March chassis (essentially a modified 85B Formula 3000 chassis, renamed to Wildcat) from 1986 to 1992. Lola provided chassis from 1993 to 2001. Buick V6 engines were used for its entire existence.

Around the same time period, an unrelated minor-league open wheel series, the American Indycar Series was also founded, using older CART chassis.

Current series (2002 to present)

2008 Firestone Indy Lights car during testing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
current series was founded by the Indy Racing League and began racing in 2002, the year after the original series' demise. Prior to the series' inception the IRL had no in-house developmental league. It is a spec series using a modified 3.5L version of the V8 engine used in the Infiniti Q45 combined with Dallara chassis producing . The series initially struggled to attract drivers and some races have had fewer than 10 entrants. However, with the introduction of a number of road-course races to the schedule in 2005, many of America's top prospects like Marco Andretti and Phil Giebler were attracted to the series to run part-time schedules on the road courses. In 2006, a boost in prize money even further increased car counts to 16 or more, with an even six ovals, six road course mix, with selected races being double races, and a stand-alone race (independent of the IndyCar Series) on the USGP weekend.

series was called the Menards Infiniti Pro Series (MIPS) until 2006 when both Menards and Nissan dropped their sponsorship of the series. It was then known as the Indy Pro Series. 2007 car counts improved further with 20 or more cars in every race. On March 26, 2008; the series announced a changing of names. The historical records and proprietary information of Champ Car were acquired by the IRL. The series then became known as Firestone Indy Lights. The name reflects the heritage of the original Indy Lights series, which has been merged into the current series' official history.

Green flag for the 2008 Miami 100 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
centerpiece of the Indy Lights schedule is the Firestone Freedom 100, contested at Indianapolis Motor Speedwaymarker on the Friday prior to the Indianapolis 500marker. The series also held a support race for the U.S. Grand Prix, the Liberty Challenge, from 2005 to 2007. It was the series' only event that was not a support race to an IndyCar event.

On September 9, 2007, during the Chicagoland 100, Logan Gomez beat Alex Lloyd by 0.0005 seconds (approximately at 188 mph) which reflects the closest recognized finish in the over century-long history of organized automobile racing throughout the world. In 2008, the margin was established by the Guinness Book of World Records as the closest finish ever in a car race.




Champions

Year Driver Team Chassis Engine
CART American Racing Series
1986 Fabrizio Barbazza Arciero Racing March Buick
1987 Didier Theys Truesports March Buick
1988 Jon Beekhuis Enterprise Racing March Buick
1989 Mike Groff Leading Edge Motorsport March Buick
1990 Paul Tracy Landford Racing March Buick
CART Indy Lights Series
1991 Eric Bachelart Landford Racing March Buick
1992 Robbie Buhl Leading Edge Motorsport March Buick
1993 Bryan Herta Tasman Motorsports Lola Buick
1994 Steve Robertson Tasman Motorsports Lola Buick
1995 Greg Moore Forsythe Racing Lola Buick
1996 David Empringham Forsythe Racing Lola Buick
1997 Tony Kanaan Tasman Motorsports Lola Buick
1998 Cristiano Da Matta Tasman Motorsports Lola Buick
1999 Oriol Servia Dorricott Racing Lola Buick
2000 Scott Dixon PacWest Lights Lola Buick
2001 Townsend Bell Dorricott Racing Lola Buick
IRL Infiniti Pro Series
2002 A.J. Foyt IV A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Infiniti
2003 Mark Taylor Panther Racing Dallara Infiniti
2004 Thiago Medeiros Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara Infiniti
2005 Wade Cunningham Brian Stewart Racing Dallara Infiniti
IRL Indy Pro Series
2006 Jay Howard Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara unbadged
2007 Alex Lloyd Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara unbadged
IRL Firestone Indy Lights
2008 Raphael Matos AGR-AFS Racing Dallara unbadged
2009 J. R. Hildebrand AGR-AFS Racing Dallara unbadged


Drivers

Current drivers

The following drivers have signed to compete in the 2009 Indy Lights season:





Indy Lights Graduates who have competed in the IndyCar Series





a denotes driver who has won an IndyCar Series event.

b denotes driver who has won an IndyCar Series championship.

c denotes driver who has won an Indianapolis 500marker.



Other notable ARS & Indy Lights alumni





See also



References

External links




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