Juncos Racing announced that driver Sting Ray Robb will move up to the 2021 season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with the team. Robb, proved to be the strongest and most consistent driver during the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season claiming seven victories, five poles, 11 podiums and 15 top-five finishes, setting four new track records and leading the most laps. He was the only driver to complete all 485 laps of the season.
All of these accomplishments came while he was racing in the highly competitive field of international drivers which saw eight different race winners during the 17 race season.
When he clinched the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 Driver’s Championship, Robb was awarded the Road To Indy scholarship to move up to the Indy Lights series. He also facilitated Juncos Racing’s win of the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 Team Championship.
“What a great start to 2021 – securing a much coveted seat with Juncos racing and my first ride in the awesome Indy Lights car,” Robb said via a team release. “Working with Ricardo Juncos and the rest of the outstanding Juncos team to challenge for the Indy Lights Championship would be a dream come true for any young driver. I’m so excited to be returning to Juncos for my third season with the team. The chemistry that the team and I have had through the past two seasons will undoubtedly play a key role in our results for the upcoming Indy Lights season.
“In tandem with that, Juncos Racing’s years of Indy Lights championship winning expertise will likely pay big dividends toward strong results during the 2021 season. I am blessed beyond belief for this opportunity and am so excited to begin the journey that lies before us. The competition will be outstanding and every race will be tough but I am confident in our team’s ability to compete with the best. To say the least, we are all very excited to see what God has in store for us in our 2021 Indy Lights campaign.
“Thank you to everyone supporting me through the past seasons… It truly has been an honor, one for which I am so grateful. Now, the privilege of having the Road to Indy logo on the side of my car for the season is amazing and it is truly a blessing to have their support in 2021!”
Robb, joins a highly talented list of previous Juncos Racing championship-winning drivers who have moved up the Road To Indy ladder including champions Spencer Pigot (2014 Indy Pro 2000 and 2015 Indy Lights), Kyle Kaiser (2017 Indy Lights), Victor Franzoni (2017 Indy Pro 2000) and Rinus VeeKay (2018 Indy Pro 2000).
“We are thrilled to announce Sting Ray will continue his work with Juncos Racing for a third season as he moves up to the Indy Lights series,” team owner Ricardo Juncos said via the same release. “Sting Ray has grown so much with our program over the past two years. His consistency throughout 2020 and domination of the second half of last season in Indy Pro 2000 led to winning the championship. We have built great chemistry both on and off-track with him and look forward to continuing our work as he goes for the Indy Lights championship this year. I would like to thank Sting Ray, his family, partners, and sponsors for this opportunity and for their support and confidence in Juncos Racing. Thank you to everyone at Andersen Promotions, Road To Indy, Cooper Tires and everyone else who has put so much time and effort to keep us on track throughout these difficult times we all have faced.”
Robb is the first driver to be announced to drive with the two-time Indy Lights championship-winning Juncos Racing team for the 2021 season. Who else is signed though?
Right now, there’s 11 entries for this season. That’s remarkable to say the least because one could have wondered what the future held for the Indy Lights camp this past summer. The top step of the Road to Indy platform saw their 2020 season scrapped due to the pandemic. The other two steps of the ladder below them in the USF 2000 and Indy Pro 2000 categories each raced this year though.
So, with no Indy Lights and a dwindling car count, what was their future?
Roger Penske had made it a goal to improve the series. While the racing series was well run and had some of the best competition of each race weekend, they just struggled to gain any traction in recruiting new teams. That was the biggest reason to why they were shelved this past year.
There was likely going to be no more than 10 full time cars for the season with a more realistic number being 7-8. How many of those cars would have actually shown up to race during COVID?
So, everyone thought it was best to just sit this past season out and plan for a larger turn out in 2021.
By all accounts, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Carlin announced a two car outfit for Indy Lights in 2021. Former FIA F3 driver Alex Peroni will drive one car with the other 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.
Before Christmas, Andretti Autosport announced that Robert Megennis will return to his No. 27 Dallara in 2021, completing the team’s four-car lineup.
The New York-native is a veteran of Indy Lights and the Road to Indy getting behind the wheel of a USF2000 car for the first time in 2016. In the 2019 Indy Lights season, the 20-year-old scored his first win on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and sat on the pole position for the Freedom 100. Within his rookie Indy Lights campaign, Megennis captured two pole positions, six podiums and finished fifth in the points championship.
Megennis completes Andretti’s 2021 Indy Lights roster, joining rookie teammates Devlin DeFrancesco [No. 17 Dallara], Kyle Kirkwood [No. 28 Dallara] and Danial Frost [No. 68 Dallara].
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.
HMD Motorsports has also partnered with Global Racing Group to go from two cars to four for 2021. They announced that Benjamin Pedersen will drive one entry and David Malukas in the other. No other drivers were announced yet and will be after the new year, but we do know that they’ll operate out of the Brownsburg shop of HMD.
That’s 11 full time cars already.
Rasmus Lindh has a scholarship to the series for 2021 and hasn’t announced his plans yet. That number will grow to at the very least 12 with the potential for even more.
The open seats though are 1 with Carlin (JHDD part of the partnership) and two with Global Racing Group’s portion of their deal with HMD.
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.”