The Indy Racing League's developmental series is starting its season in Florida once again. The only change is the venue. The Indy Lights Series, formerly known as Indy Pro, is making its season debut in St. Petersburg instead of Homestead. There will be two Indy Lights races at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, at 4:45 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The Indy Lights has become a feeder system for drivers and many others. Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV got their start in the developmental series.
How it works
An Indy Lights car looks similar to its IndyCar counterpart but has some differences. An IndyCar has a minimum weight of 1,630 pounds on street and road courses, not including fuel and driver; an Indy Lights car has a minimum weight of 1,430. The fuel capacity is 22 gallons on an IndyCar, 25 on an Indy Lights car. Both series run V-8 engines; an IndyCar engine produces about 650 horsepower at 10,300 rpm; in the Indy Lights it's around 450 horsepower at 8,200 rpm.
The Indy Lights had 17 car-and-driver combinations in open testing last month at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And there are 28 entries for this weekend's races in St. Petersburg. That exceeds the 22.6 car average for races in 2008. The field for the Indy Lights races in St. Petersburg includes Ana Beatriz, J.R. Hildebrand and James Davison.
A diverse class
The rookie class comes from all kinds of racing. Junior Strous is coming from the Atlantic series, the former Champ Car feeder. Pippa Mann previously raced in the World Series by Renault. Martin Plowman is a former Formula 3 Euro Series driver. Gustavo Yacaman is moving from Spanish F3. And Sebastian Saavedra switched from German F3.
Odessa-based Team E Racing was impressive in the Indy Lights series last season, winning at the Milwaukee Mile and finishing second at Nashville Superspeedway en route to being named the New Team of the Year. Team E is back for another season in Indy Lights, only this time with a new driver. Owner Neil Enerson replaced Bobby Wilson with former Champ Car driver Jan Heylen. Last season, Wilson set the fastest race lap ever for an Indy Lights car at Indianapolis at 191.466 mph.
Local flavor II
Also competing in this weekend's Indy Lights races is St. Petersburg resident Jay Howard, who won the former Indy Pro Series as a rookie in 2006. Three years ago, Howard finished third in one race and second in another in St. Petersburg.