The Indianapolis 500 isn’t the only race hardcore open-wheel fans look forward to in the month of May. The Freedom 100, the premiere Firestone Indy Lights race of the season, is the feast of feasts for audiences looking to scope out the best of INDYCAR’s future stars, and the entry list just got one driver better.
Fan Force United announced that Emerson Newton-John, nephew of actress/singer Olivia Newton-John, will be joining the team in its second car for the Freedom 100 alongside season regular Armaan Ebrahim. The race will mark the new team’s first endeavor on an oval.
Newton-John brings a wide span of experience into Firestone Indy Lights. Most notable was his time in the Australian open-wheel Formula Holden Series, former stomping grounds of current IZOD IndyCar Series driver Will Power.
“As my goal is to compete in the [IZOD] IndyCar Series within the next two years, the Firestone Indy Lights Series just makes complete sense for me,” Newton-John said, “and the Freedom 100 is the best way to kick off my return to the sport.”
The Charlotte, N.C., resident recently tested a Firestone Indy Lights car with the team at Putnam Park Raceway, just west of Indianapolis. His first effort impressed team principals Scott Williamson and Tyce Carlson, especially with poor weather conditions.
“All of our guys at the test were impressed with his feedback and how he got up to speed. He didn’t bobble at all and that shows good composure,” Williamson said. “He was aggressive and confident. He was really pushing, braking very deep in the corners. It was windy and cold and we didn't have a lot of tire temperature. Still, he was focused on getting up to speed regardless of the conditions. Very impressive.”
Before Newton-John can hope to participate in the race, he must pass the rookie oval test and gain his license. All rookie drivers will head to Iowa Speedway to make the final preparations for their oval debut.
Newton-John is confident that his past experience will make for a smooth transition into the series, and noted that his time in the Formula Holden Series helped him ease into the Firestone Indy Lights car. It’s not an easy task to enter a new series in the largest event on its schedule at one of the most famous racetracks in the world, but he has set goals that he fully plans on accomplishing.
“My goals for the race are to stay out of the crashes that are bound to happen, and to finish in the top 6,” Newton-John said. “Don’t get me wrong though…if I can figure that magical place out quickly, then there is no reason why I won’t push for more.”