Carlin returning with 2 car team to Indy Lights, where car counts stand now

2016 Indy Lights Champions Carlin will re-join the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Series for the 2021 season with former FIA F3 driver Alex Peroni. The Anglo-American team are joining forces with the Australian born racer as he makes his debut in US racing.

21-year-old Peroni comes to the US having raced in the FIA Formula 3 Championship in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Peroni missed the final round of the 2019 season following a horrific crash at Monza but came back strong in 2020 to claim three podium finishes and two fastest laps to take 10th in the standings in the 30-car field.

Carlin will return to Indy Lights with a two car team following two years out of the series as the team became established in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Working in conjunction with former Indy car driver and Indy Lights champion Jay Howard, the Carlin team will also serve as the top rung of Jay Howard’s Driver Development (JHDD) and will be based out of Carlin’s US base in Delray Beach, Florida and run alongside the team’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES operation.

“I’m seriously pumped to be joining the 2021 Indy Lights field and to be doing it with a team such as Carlin who I know have been successful in the series before and of course I know well from Europe,” said Peroni. “I’m so thankful to Blundstone and the state of Tasmania for their continued support and for allowing me to follow my dream.

“No doubt there will be a lot to learn in terms of both the car and the different circuits, but I am absolutely ready for the challenge and know I will have a great team behind me to bring me up to speed.”

Speaking about the team’s newest signing, Trevor Carlin said, “We’re really excited to be back in Indy Lights having been so successful in the series in the past. It’s a fantastic series to prepare drivers for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and it was always our aim to return to the junior formula once we had become more settled in INDYCAR.

“We’re very proud that Alex and his sponsors have chosen Carlin as the team to take his first steps into US racing. We know having raced against him in the immensely competitive FIA Formula 3 Championship what he is capable of and I can’t wait to see his potential evolve in the Indy Lights field.”

So, where does that take us now in terms of car counts?

Kyle Kirkwood will be back with Andretti Autosport next season. The youngster was supposed to race for them in 2020 but with a pandemic and the series stopping racing, he had to look for other work. But, the two sides made it viable to return with a deal for next season.

Kirkwood, has 21 wins, 24 podiums and 11 poles in two years in the RTI program. He won the championship in both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 on his way to an Indy Lights ride for this past year. That will transfer over to 2021 now. He will join Danial Frost and Devlin DeFrancesco with the organization in 2021.

Also, HMD Motorsports has partnered with Global Racing Group to go from two cars to four for 2021. On Tuesday, they announced that Benjamin Pedersen Will drive one entry. No other drivers were announced yet, but they’ll operate out of the Brownsburg shop of HMD.

That’s nine cars already.

Yes, Belardi won’t be on the grid in 2021, but all signs are teams are interested in their fleet.

Then, you have what Juncos or Exclusive Autosport do as well plus what Sting Ray Robb and Rasmus Lindh do with their scholarships to the series for 2021 either. I’m also hearing some more new teams could be coming to the mix to push this full time field north of 10 and well into the double digit category.

Penske, wants to make this a viable series for other NTT IndyCar Series owners to start programs in. He’s on his way to eventually making this happen for potentially 2022.

They’ve got 20 races among 10 race weekend’s on tap for next season beginning with the season opener on the streets of St. Pete on March 6 and 7. They’ll do a doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next on May 14/15.

For the first time since 2012, the series will return to The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Mich., for a double-header round, and will cap off the year with a West Coast swing at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore., and the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., the following weekend.

Indy Lights will return to NBC Sports Gold with all races airing live and on demand in the U.S. Internationally, all practice, qualifying and race events will be live streamed on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indylights.com, as well as dedicated broadcast channels on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Xbox One. Additional coverage of all on-track sessions can also be found on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network.

Next season will see an increased champion’s scholarship award to $1,289,425 for entry into at least three NTT INDYCAR SERIES events for 2022 including the Indianapolis 500, and the addition of an Indy car test at the conclusion of the season for each of the top-three finishers in the championship.

The Cooper tire-shod Dallara IL-15 with a 450-horsepower AER powerplant will see the addition of a Dallara-designed and installed Titanium Halo in 2021 for increased safety. The package has produced incredible competition with a strong parity across the board showcasing racecraft. With similarities to an Indy car, the equipment package provides the appropriate training for drivers to take the next step including a six-speed, paddle-shift transmission, a 50-horsepower “push-to-pass” feature, “drive-by-wire” throttle control and advanced engine management electronics.

INDYCAR sees how beneficial the series is too. Since the start of the system in 2010, 37 Indy Lights drivers have made at least one INDYCAR start. An astounding 23 of the 33 drivers in this past year’s Indy 500 was an Indy Light graduate including eight of those 23 being past Lights champions.

“From top to bottom, the entire team recognizes the role and commitment Indy Lights has played in bringing new talent to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment said last month. “We are firmly committed to ensuring its continued success.”

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