Road to Indy
February 28, 2019 | 9:00 AM
An intriguing mix of drivers will make up a select Indy Lights field during Spring Training, all of them with aspirations of claiming a scholarship to ensure entry into at least three IndyCar events in 2020, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.
Zachary Claman, Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman will be among the proven veterans. Claman, 20, from Montreal, Que., Canada, already has a taste of the premier category after contesting nine IndyCar races in 2018, but this year has chosen to step back to Indy Lights with Belardi Auto Racing. Claman finished fifth in the 2017 title-chase, winning once at Road America.
Kellett, from Toronto, Ont., Canada, has joined Juncos Racing for his fourth full year of Indy Lights. He has secured podium finishes in each of the past three seasons, and last year claimed his first pole at Indianapolis for the series’ headline event, the Freedom 100.
Norman also must be considered a championship favorite as he heads into his third season of Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport. The Aurora, Ohio, native has made steady progress since jumping directly from Formula Atlantic to Indy Lights in 2017. He claimed his first win last year in sensational style at Gateway Motorsports Park and ended the year with his first pole, at Portland International Raceway.
An extraordinarily talented group of rookies will include last year’s Indy Pro 2000 champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), the previous year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport) and 2018 Indy Pro 2000 race winner David Malukas (BN Racing).
“I challenged for the championship the last two seasons in the Road to Indy so I don’t expect anything less,” said VeeKay, 18, from Hoofddorp, Netherlands, who also finished a close second to Askew in the 2017 USF2000 title-chase. “I’m certainly going to try to win another championship, but I think we have a good shot and I’m super-confident we can do it.”
VeeKay already has a championship under his belt this year after clinching the Asian Formula 3 Winter Series crown last weekend at Sepang in Malaysia.
Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., who finished last year with a flourish, claiming his maiden Indy Pro 2000 victory at Portland to cement third in the championship table, has similarly high expectations after joining Andretti Autosport, which finished first and second (with Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta) in 2018.
“This year will be my third full season of car racing and for all three years the season has officially kicked off at Spring Training at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” said Askew, who topped the time charts in a recent test at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. “I look forward to learning more about my new Andretti Autosport-prepared Dallara IL-15.”
In common with Askew and VeeKay, 17-year-old Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., is also embarking on just his third season of car racing. Malukas set the fastest time during a rain-affected test last December at Homestead and will be looking to continue that momentum.
Other rapid rookies will include Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), from New York, N.Y., who will celebrate his 19th birthday next week as he steps up after a promising year in Indy Pro 2000, and Brazilian Lucas Kohl, who is graduating directly to Indy Lights after three seasons of USF2000 competition.
More driver announcements are expected heading into the weekend.
Both the Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 fields will have a total of four hours of track time spread over the weekend, March 2-3, while Indy Lights will have five hours of testing on Monday, March 4. Drivers from all three series also will benefit from traditional Spring Training staples such as dedicated photoshoots and a Media Seminar hosted by Kevin Lee, well-known host and pit lane reporter for NBCSN’s coverage of both IndyCar and Indy Lights as well as play-by-play announcer for NFL and college basketball.
Cooper Tires will have special presentations as well, which will continue its popular hashtag program for a sixth successive year, and RoadtoIndy.TV, will continue to provide extensive and exclusive coverage of the entire ladder system in 2019.
Content and images courtesy of Road to Indy.