BN Racing is working to build an empire in the Mazda Road to Indy.
The team joined the INDYCAR-sanctioned development ladder system as a part-time entry on the first rung, scoring one pole position and a second-place finish in nine races of the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda season.
This year, BN Racing expanded to the middle level, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, and saw a stout return on investment with three wins, eight podiums and three poles to finish third in the overall team standings. The season was highlighted by a 1-2 sweep in both races from drivers David Malukas and Toby Sowery at Road America in Wisconsin, the team's home track since it lies closest to the Chicago base.
While the sample size is small, it was enough for team owner Bryn Nuttall to announce the extension of his program into the top step of MRTI – Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2019.
“After the success we’ve had in such a short space of time, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Nuttall said. “We’re a very ambitious team and the opportunity came along at the right time.”
The Englishman admitted that the endeavor also “fit in well” with Mazda Road to Indy’s five-year plan set in place by INDYCAR and Dan Andersen, CEO of Andersen Promotions that operates the ladder system. The plan was created to help reduce budgets while also increasing prize money. Additionally, INDYCAR driver licensing guidelines have been revised, along with expansion of the Verizon IndyCar Series testing program for Indy Lights drivers and teams.
“My plan (in Indy Lights) is to just run one car for the first year in 2019 as a development year, with the idea of being able to challenge properly in 2020 with a two-car program,” Nuttall said.
“There is interest for a second car (next season), but the way I always like to do things is with a proper strategy for success. I feel if I over-complicate or push or resources too far, it will have a negative effect on the whole program.”
Most importantly, the upcoming challenge in Indy Lights isn’t coming at the expense of another part of the operation. BN Racing will maintain a two-car lineup in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda in 2019.
“We’re still a very new team and, before I talk about Indy Lights, I still want more success and ultimately championships in USF2000 and Pro Mazda,” Nuttall said. “These are just as important as our new Indy Lights project.
“Indy Lights is tougher. Naturally, it’s another step up the ladder. Realistically, if we can achieve a podium in our first year, that would be acceptable. But let’s see, we’ve surprised people many times before, maybe we can again.”
BN Racing’s rise from newcomer to championship challenger in less than two years has been impressive. Even Nuttall conceded it as “remarkable.”
“For me, it’s just been a natural thing, really,” he said. “You start with something new, you do it the right way and become successful, then you add some ambition into the mix and you just want to keep progressing up the ladder and succeeding at a higher level.
“It’s part of my racing DNA, really.”
Teams such as Carlin and Juncos Racing have turned their Indy Lights run into a move to the Verizon IndyCar Series. While that might be the case one day for BN Racing, Nuttall isn’t rushing it.
“The right amounts of success and ambition can take you into something you don’t expect,” Nuttall said. “I certainly didn’t expect to be running an Indy Lights car in 2019 two years ago, but here we are. INDYCAR is a huge step (up) from Indy Lights. I’m completely aware of that, but with the new regulations in a few years, it does provide a better opportunity for new teams to come in.
“But right now, my only thoughts are having more success in 2019. Ask me again in two years’ time.”