ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – The Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires announced a partnership on Friday with Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand that will allow aspiring young drivers an easier path to compete in development series on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
The agreement paves the way for the top three championship finishers in each of the Road to Indy’s three levels to race in the 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series that takes place in January and February – prior to the start of the Road to Indy season.
Under the agreement, Road to Indy drivers will have entry fees waived for each of the five race weekends in New Zealand, each at a different circuit.
“This is a great opportunity for our drivers to compete against some of the best young competitors in the world,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which operates the Road to Indy under INDYCAR sanctioning.
“With their schedule of five tripleheaders in a row, our drivers will have plenty of track time in equipment that is relevant, further strengthening their skills and helping to prepare them for the next step on our ladder.”
The Toyota Racing Series uses open-wheel chassis produced by Tatuus, the same Italian manufacturer that provides chassis for the first two rungs of the Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires.
In reciprocation, drivers who competed in all five rounds of this year’s Toyota Racing Series will have their entry fees waived to participate in the annual Chris Griffis Memorial test this fall or the Road to Indy’s two-day spring training testing early in 2020.
“We are also excited to offer the opportunity for (the Toyota Racing Series) drivers to come and see what the Road to Indy is all about,” Andersen said. “Both the Chris Griffis test and spring training provide an excellent opportunity for plenty of seat time, and drivers can decide what level on the ladder is appropriate for them.
“With USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 using the Tatuus chassis and Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox – which are also used by the Toyota series – drivers will be quick to adapt to our equipment packages.”
Scott Dixon has proudly carried the New Zealand flag while winning five NTT IndyCar Series championships and 45 races, including the 2008 Indianapolis 500. He captured the Indy Lights title as a promising 20-year-old in 2000.
“Scott Dixon is a shining light for many young drivers in New Zealand and indeed many who come and compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series,” said Nicolas Caillol, Castrol Toyota Racing Series category manager.
“Any initiative that eases the path into the U.S. racing scene or creates potential opportunities will be a welcome one. Other INDYCAR drivers like Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Santino Ferrucci and Jordan King have also benefitted from their time competing in New Zealand in January and February, and we'd love to see more coming to develop their skills in our series as part of their development path. It's now a little bit easier for drivers on that development path."
VeeKay takes Indy Lights pole for Race 1
Rinus VeeKay scorched to the top of the timesheets and took pole position for the opening race of the Road America doubleheader weekend in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. Piloting the No. 21 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15, the 18-year-old Dutchman put down a lap of 1 minute, 54.054 seconds (126.698 mph), to beat Ryan Norman (No. 48 Andretti Autosport) by 0.2553 of a second around the 14-turn, 4.014-mile.
“It’s a great track. It’s very pure. It’s not a very smooth track, so you’ve got to throw the car,” said VeeKay. “You can be wild here and I really like that. I just have a lot of fun going sideways, hitting the pedal with the Indy Lights car, which has a lot of power. It’s a lot of fun.
VeeKay sits 11 points behind championship leader Oliver Askew (No. 28 Andretti Autosport), who qualified third. The first Indy Lights race streams live at 2:50 p.m. ET Saturday on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.
Thompson fastest in Indy Pro 2000 Race 1 qualifying
Parker Thompson won pole for the first race of the weekend in Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires. The 21-year-old Canadian put down a flying lap of 2:01.125 (119.302 mph) in the No. 8 Abel Motorsports Tatuus PM-18, edging Sting Ray Robb (No. 2 Juncos Racing) by 0.0638 of a second.
Kaminsky speeds to USF2000 pole for Race 1
In the Cooper Tires USF2000 championship, Colin Kaminsky snatched pole for the first race with a lap of 2:10.268 (110.513 mph). The driver of the No. 23 Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 beat Alex Baron (No. 14 Legacy Autosport) by a narrow 0.0247 of a second for his second pole of the season.