By Steve Wittich
The final official Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action of the 2019 season gets underway Wednesday, December 11, for two days of testing on the 1.8-mile, 11-turn Sebring International Club Course.
The ‘short course’ is often utilized by NTT IndyCar Series teams to simulate a street circuit. The circuit with the Hairpin Turn, Cunningham Corner, Tower Turn, and Gurney Bend features several 90-degree turns, surface changes, and bumps.
The nine entered Indy Lights drivers will share the track with Global MX-5 Cup series and will have just under 8-hours of track time spread over Wednesday and Thursday.
The lone returnee from the 2019 Indy Lights field is Andretti Autosport’s Robert Megennis. The Road To Indy veteran from New York City finished his rookie campaign in fifth place on the championship table, winning once at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and standing on the podium a total of six times.
Megennis will be joined at Andretti Autosport by one newcomer and a pair of drivers familiar to Road To Indy fans.
Kyle Kirkwood, the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion, will be joined by fellow Indy Pro 2000 race winner Danial Frost. Kirkwood skipped the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in October, while 18-year-old Frost turned 130 laps with the Indianapolis, Ind. based team.
Joining the three drivers who raced in the U.S.A. in 2019, is Frenchman Tristan Charpentier. The 19-year-old has extensive open-wheel experience, including Championnat de France F4 (one win and six podiums), BRDC British F3 (two podiums), and one start in Super Formula.
Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier is slated to be behind the wheel of lone test entry for Belardi Auto Racing. The 20-year-old has some Road To Indy experience, making a pair of starts at Barber Motorsports Park in USF2000 in 2017 and taking part in the 2019 Chris Griffis Memorial Test in Indy Pro 2000 with Abel Motorsports.
Lazier, a native of Vail, Colo. is not short on other open-wheel experience joining his grandfather Bob as a Formula B/Atlantic champion at the SCCA Runoffs, winning at Virginia International Raceway in October. The elder Lazier won the 1971 Formula B championship at Road Atlanta.
Road To Indy stalwarts Rasmus Lindh and Antonio Serravalle will be piloting a pair of AER powered IL-15s for HMD Motorsports during the two days of testing in central Florida. The Brownsburg, Ind. based team has plans to run three cars during the 2020 season, including the already signed David Malukas.
The team is still working to build up a third car, so Malukas will sit out this test. The just-turned 18-year-old will be on hand to help the team and drivers.
Lindh, an 18-year-old tested with Andretti Autosport during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. The Gothenburg, Sweeden native, is coming off his second straight runner-up finish in the Road To Indy, finishing behind Kyle Kirkwood for the second straight season.
Serravalle, still only 17-years-old, has a pair of top-five Indy Pro 2000 finishes while contesting a season and a half with a family-run team.
“It’s pretty exciting to have this opportunity and with a quality team such as HMD Motorsports,” explained Canadian Serravalle. “They were arguably the turnaround team of 2019 and made a huge impression during the latter stages of the season. They have hired a pair of high-quality engineers, and I am confident they will help me get up to speed. This will be my maiden voyage in an Indy Lights car, so I will be looking to get up to speed as quickly as possible on Wednesday of next week and then push the limits more on Thursday.”
Exclusive Autosport makes it’s official Indy Lights debut at the two-day test with Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Nikita Lastochkin. The 29-year-old Russian has made 75 starts across the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 series. The Russian born Los Angeles, Calif. resident has a pair of podiums and 16 top-five finishes in his five seasons of competition.
The Canadian team that is based in Brownsburg, Ind. has a second IL-15 and is planning on being a two-car program. The second car will be part of a private test at Palm Beach International Raceway later in the week.
Christian Bogle and Jay Howard Driver Development will once again be contesting the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship together in 2020. The Westfield, Ind. based team helmed by 2006 Indy Lights champion Jay Howard purchased a pair of Indy Lights chassis during the off-season. To increase his seat-time, the Covington, La. based driver will be turning as many laps as possible at Indy Lights tests to improve his skills.
“I am super excited to be able to have the opportunity to test an Indy Lights car!” said an excited 19-year-old Bogle. “Coming from F4 and USF2000, it will be a pretty large jump, but I’m sure it will be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done to date! With the additional testing in Indy Lights, I’m hoping to see that help my performances in F4 and USF2000.”
Juncos Racing does not have any drivers entered in the test. TSO Ladder was able to check in with team owner Ricardo Juncos. He told us that the cars and crew are ready and that he expects to be part of the series again in 2020.
We’ll be back after the test with a recap.