By: Tanner Watkins
February 14, 2019 | 10:00 AM
In speaking with Robert Megennis, it is difficult not to get excited for the upcoming season of Indy Lights competition.
Not only will this year’s crop of top-shelf Road to Indy drivers feature one of the best Indy Lights classes in recent memory, but for Megennis in particular, 2019 marks an opportunity for the New York native to get up on the wheel and take real control over his career path.
While Megennis’ formal announcement to Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights program didn’t come until this month, the relationship is already many months old with talks beginning late in the 2018 season.
“It all started around Gateway because we wanted to do the Chris Griffiths (Memorial) Test in an Indy Lights car,” said Megennis to Open-Wheels. “We just didn’t feel like it would be worth it to do Chris Griffiths in the Pro Mazda – I drove that car the whole year.
“We did the Lights test and it went super well – better than any of us really expected to. I was fastest in the last session, and from there we were like, ‘Wow this is something that could really happen.’ So we continued the relationship and found funding for the year to just put it all together.”
In this particular situation, the funding for Megennis’ ride is coming in the form of four different partners from a similar business sector. Palo Alto Networks, Optiv, SailPoint and Cyberark are all companies working in the realm of cyber security, and each of them are on-board to bring Megennis to Indy Lights in 2019.
Last week, Megennis was on-hand for a sales kickoff gathering for Optiv and spoke to a crowd of interested onlookers while he described his partnership with the four companies and their important roles for 2019. This is just a snapshot of the modern motorsports sponsorship landscape.
Back in his natural element, though, Megennis is already embracing the Andretti way. When queried on how long Megennis’ adjustment period will be during his rookie year in Indy Lights, the 18-year-old said he already feels right at home with Andretti Autosport.
“Honestly, I think I’m already comfortable at Andretti,” exclaimed
“I think it takes everyone a different amount of time, but I feel very comfortable there, very welcomed. I’m loving the environment.”
While Megennis has driven for respected teams such as Team Pelfrey and Juncos Racing on his ride to the Road to Indy’s top level, he admits that driving for Andretti Autosport is a completely different animal.
“The few things that I’ve noticed in the tests that I’ve done is the
“They support me and they help me fix my mistakes, but for instance, I made a little mistake at Sebring and damaged part of the car. So it was like, ‘Okay don’t do that again.’ It is not like, ‘Oh you know, it’s fine.’ It’s more like, ‘Okay, these are our race cars. Don’t do that again.’
“I’m being held to a higher standard, but they’re really pushing me to my best and that’s something that I’m loving.”
Making adjustments on-the-fly and keeping the car clean is an easier concept for Megennis these days. Admittedly, the American driver has come a long way since his debut in Formula 1600 with Team Pelfrey back in 2015.
“The few things that I have seen in myself is when I started F1600, I was definitely a little wild and I’ve kind of tamed that back,” says
“I’d say those are my two biggest points where I’ve made the most growth, but I’ve grown everywhere. I’m driving the car better, I know how to engineer
“I feel like a completely different driver to four years ago or even a year or two years ago.”
With any driver beginning their rookie season, expectations should be tempered a bit as he or she begins understanding the small – but all important – details to conquering a new series. So while Megennis is well aware of what the championship-caliber equipment underneath him can provide, 2019 will be all about growth.
“I feel like we definitely can win the championship. We’ve been crazy fast in all the tests that we’ve done and the car really suits me. But I’m not setting expectations like, ‘I’m going to go with the championship this year,’” Megnennis states.
“It’s my first year of Indy Lights, and I’m going to be 19 years old when I get to St. Pete. I just want to learn as much as I possibly can this year, have the best year I can, and I’d probably say if I don’t win a race this year I’d be disappointed.
“You can’t determine these things – you can’t predict what’s going to happen. I’m just going to drive the piss out of the car, see what happens, and see how much I can learn in the first year with Andretti and the first year in Lights.”
How can you argue with that? Drive hard, minimize mistakes and let the chips fall where they may. That is a championship-winning mindset for Megennis ahead of his first season in Indy Lights, and only one step separates him from the NTT IndyCar Series.
The prize is there for the taking –
Header image by Road to Indy.