LONG BEACH, Calif. — Penske Entertainment Corp. is in control of the Indy Lights Series, but that does not mean the Freedom 100 will return to Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Roger Penske, the owner of Penske Entertainment, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar, eliminated the Freedom 100 from Carb Day earlier this year.
Despite some incredibly entertaining races that included some of the most unbelievable finishes in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, Penske is not in favor of letting inexperienced drivers in a feeder series race on the IMS oval.
When asked if the Freedom 100 would return now that Penske is in charge of Indy Lights, Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles was direct in his response.
“No,” Miles said.
Miles reiterated all the reasons Penske said when he ended the Freedom 100 earlier this year.
“At this point that’s not an option on the table,” Miles said. “The race has been thrilling in the past. We all saw it. But it’s a very special thing to put those up-and-coming drivers on that track at those speeds on basically the day before or two days before the Indianapolis 500. As we thought through all those things, knowing that we would not thrill some of our fans, we just felt like it was the most appropriate conclusion.”
Now that the NASCAR Cup Series has stopped racing on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and has moved to the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course, the only racing event held on the oval is the Indianapolis 500.
Penske prefers to keep it that way.
As for reclaiming the Indy Lights Series from Dan Andersen and Andersen Promotions, Miles believes Penske Entertainment’s leadership can help raise the top run of the Road to Indy to a more productive level than the current system.
“We’ve agreed with Dan Andersen and Andersen Promotions that we will at IndyCar promote the Lights series going forward,” Miles said. “We are doing that because we now think frankly with Roger’s ownership of IndyCar and the progress we’ve made, the people we’ve put together, the relationships that we have with the promoters, we can do even more than Dan has been able to do to make that as the top of the Road to Indy that much more compelling and that much stronger of a pipeline, even stronger than it’s been.
“That prompts me to say, Dan is and continues to be a phenomenal partner. Everybody understands I think now it’s quite clear what the importance of that Road to Indy with right now the three rungs in the ladder up to IndyCar, its importance is phenomenal, and its success is phenomenal. You just need to look at our grid and the drivers that are out there and read the stats to understand that.
“Dan will continue – it will still be all put together as the Road to Indy. Dan will continue to run USF2000 and Pro 2000. We’ll work hand in glove. We’ll announce a schedule and all the other details before long, but today I just wanted to go ahead and confirm that we will take the responsibility and happily so to see if we can take Lights to even another level beginning quite soon.”
The future of Indy Lights could involve more NTT IndyCar Series teams fielding Indy Lights entries. Prior to become Arrow McLaren SP, Sam Schmidt Motorsports was a powerful Indy Lights team before moving up to IndyCar. Andretti Autosport currently fields the most successful multi-team Indy Lights operation while also fielding a four-car, four-driver effort in the NTT IndyCar Series teams.
“We haven’t really gotten into that conversation in any depth with IndyCar teams that have not been in Lights, but obviously that will follow,” Miles explained. “We needed to get it decided and announced to start that conversation. But we have a long list of ways we think we can help from international distribution of the media where because of the relationships we have from IndyCar we can get more exposure for Lights.”