Firestone Indy Lights
|Category||Open wheel cars|
|Inaugural season||1986 (original)
2002 (IndyCar sanctioned)
|Drivers' champion||Tristan Vautier|
|Teams' champion||Sam Schmidt Motorsports|
Firestone Indy Lights is a developmental automobile racing series sanctioned by IndyCar. Previously, another series named Indy Lights filled the same role for CART and ran from 1986 to 1993 as the American Racing Series and Dayton Indy Lights from 1991 to 2001. The IndyCar sanctioned current series was founded in 2002 as the Infiniti Pro Series as a way to introduce new talent to IndyCar and coincided with Infiniti's departure from IndyCar's premier IndyCar Series.
Early origins 
During the early 1960s, open wheel cars were front engined roadsters. The primary ladder series included sprints and midgets. By the end of the decade, and into the 1970s, the cars evolved into rear-engine formula-style machines. Likewise, the feeder series began to follow the same mold. When USAC became the primary sanctioning body for top-level Indy car racing, the ladder of progression began to change.
The SCCA Super Vee and Formula Atlantic series were among the first formula-based ladder series. However, neither had any direct tie to USAC. In 1977, USAC started the "Mini-Indy" series, using Super Vee machines. The series ended after 1980 when USAC stopped sanctioning Indy car races outside of Indianapolis.
Following the end of the "Mini Indy" series, the driver pool in the early 1980s to CART and the Indy 500 was drawn in a largely unorganized fashion amongst Super Vees, Atlantics, SCCA, former Can-Am drivers, sprints, midgets, and even stock cars.
Original series (1986 to 2001) 
After a void of an official ladder series for over five years, CART decided to take the effort in-house. The original Indy Lights series was formed as an open-wheeled racing series that acted as a developmental circuit for CART from 1986 to 2001. It was founded in 1986 as the American Racing Series (ARS). The series was renamed Indy Lights in 1991. The CART-sanctioned series became widely popular and secured the title sponsorship of the first Firestone tire supplier, then Firestone's subsidiary Dayton Tires.
The Indy Lights schedule closely followed that of the CART series, with the noteworthy exception of Indianapolis. The series typically had a gap of up to a month while the primary CART teams raced at the Indy 500. The races were usually held the morning of the CART series races, as an undercard, support event. In early years, the Indy Lights series skipped superspeedway races such as Michigan, but eventually found its way to race there.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, CART was suffering from financial problems. Meanwhile in 1996, the rival Indy Racing League was formed. CART canceled the minor league outright after the 2001 season. By this time, the Toyota Atlantic series was equally effective in providing CART with new drivers. In addition, the Atlantics served as a springboard for such drivers as Greg Ray, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Richie Hearn to enter the IRL. The Atlantics effectively became CART's primary feeder system, and later became Champ Car World Series' official in-house feeder championship for a time.
A spec-series, CART Indy Lights used March chassis (essentially a modified 85B Formula 3000 chassis, renamed to Wildcat) from 1986 to 1992. Lola provided chassis from 1993 to 2001. Buick V6 engines were used for its entire existence.
Around the same time period, an unrelated minor-league open wheel series, the American Indycar Series was also founded, using older CART chassis.
Current series (2002 to present) 
The current series was founded by the Indy Racing League and began racing in 2002, the year after the original series' demise. Prior to the series' inception, the Indy Racing League had no in-house developmental league. It is a spec series using a modified 3.5L version of the V8 engine used in the Infiniti Q45 combined with Dallara chassis producing 420 horsepower (310 kW). The series initially struggled to attract drivers and some races have had fewer than 10 entrants. However, with the introduction of a number of road-course races to the schedule in 2005, many of America's top prospects like Marco Andretti and Phil Giebler were attracted to the series to run part-time schedules on road courses. In 2006, a boost in prize money even further increased car counts to 16 or more, with an even six oval and six road course mix. The selected races being double races, and a stand-alone race (independent of the IndyCar Series) were scheduled on the USGP weekend.
The series was called the Menards Infiniti Pro Series (MIPS) until 2006 when both Menards and Nissan dropped their sponsorship of the series. It was then known as the Indy Pro Series. 2007 car counts improved further with 20 or more cars in every race. On March 26, 2008, the series announced a changing of names. The historical records and proprietary information of Champ Car were acquired by the IRL. The series then became known as Firestone Indy Lights. The name reflects the heritage of the original Indy Lights series, which has been merged into the current series' official history.
The centerpiece of the Indy Lights schedule is the Firestone Freedom 100, contested at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the Friday prior to the Indianapolis 500. The series also held a support race for the U.S. Grand Prix, the Liberty Challenge, from 2005 to 2007. It was the series' only event that was not a support race to an IndyCar event.
On September 9, 2007, during the Chicagoland 100, Logan Gomez beat Alex Lloyd by 0.0005 seconds (approximately 1.65 inches (42 mm) at 188 mph) which reflects the closest recognized finish in the over century-long history of organized automobile racing throughout the world. In 2008, the margin was established by the Guinness Book of World Records as the closest finish ever in a car race.
Current drivers 
The following drivers have signed to compete in the 2013 Indy Lights season:
Indy Lights Graduates who have competed in the IndyCar Series 
Other notable ARS & Indy Lights alumni 
See also