As the start of the season approaches, HMD Motorsports has nearly finalized their 2021 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires team roster with the addition of Nikita Lastochkin. After recently testing with the team at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Lastochkin has inked a deal that will see him pilot the #59 entry for the Indianapolis, Indiana based program.
A veteran in the Road to Indy, the Russian driver will be joining the team for an upcoming test at Barber Motorsports Park before the Series Test at the same location. Making his HMD Motorsports debut over the April 15-18 weekend, Lastochkin will join David Malukas, Linus Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen in a four car effort with Global Racing Group.
Before the 2020 season was abandoned, Lastochkin was set to compete in his rookie Indy Lights season. Now, he will be making his first career Indy Lights start with HMD Motorsports but has already logged a pair of test days at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca back in January in preparation for the 2021 season. After starting his racing career back in 2013 and 2014 in the Skip Barber Winter Series, Lastockin has spent the past six years honing his skills in the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder program. Starting in 2015, Lastockin entered USF2000 before moving up to Indy Pro 2000 in 2017.
While the four-car lineup is stacked with rookies, Malukas, Lundqvist and Pedersen have had multiple testing opportunities with the team at various tracks and will be able to greatly benefit Lastochkin and each other. With all four drivers coming from different racing backgrounds and competing in different series, they will be able to work together to become a strong four-car team.
So far, we have 12 drivers with a very talented field.
Andretti Autosport (4)
Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 17) – Entering his first season in the Road to Indy in 2020, DeFrancesco proved his skill collecting second in the Indy Pro 2000 championship. DeFrancesco captured two victories in dominating fashion, six podiums and three pole positions all tallying together to earn 2020 Rookie of the Year honors.
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.
Kyle Kirkwood (No. 28) – He 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.
Danial Frost (No. 68) – Most recently, in lieu of the 2020 Indy Lights season, Frost competed in the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda with Andretti Autosport as well as the Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires series with Turn 3 Motorsport. The 2021 Indy Lights season will mark Frost’s fourth season in the Road to Indy. Frost has captured three wins, two pole positions and more than 10 podium finishes. In 2020, Frost finished third in the Indy Pro 2000 championship.
HMD/Global Racing (4)
Benjamin Pedersen – He has not yet competed in the Road to Indy ladder program, he has been very active in the open-wheel scene for the past five seasons. This past season, Pedersen took part in the first five rounds of the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda with Global Racing Group, where he earned a best finish of fourth before heading to the United Kingdom to compete in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship season, claiming a win at the famous Silverstone circuit and three podiums during the season. In 2019, Pedersen finished second in the F3 Americas Championship Powered by Honda (now Formula Regional Americas) with seven wins in only ten races, after finishing third in the Championship the year prior in 2018.
David Malukas – No stranger to the Road to Indy, Malukas has quickly worked his way up the ladder program over the past four years. After making his debut in USF2000 in 2017 for a partial season, Malukas moved up to Indy Pro 2000 the following year, where he finished fourth in the championship and claimed three wins. For the 2019 season, Malukas moved up in the program again for his rookie Indy Lights season where he earned two podiums and six top-five finishes. Malukas was set to return to Indy Lights for the 2020 season. However, after the forced cancellation of the 2020 season, the Chicago area resident and HMD Motorsports made the switch to Formula Regional Americas Powered by Honda – where he finished second in the championship with two wins and fifteen podium finishes.
Linus Lundqvist – The 21-year-old Swedish driver made a massive impact in his first season racing in the United States. After claiming the BRDC British F3 Championship in 2018 and finishing fifth in the Euroformula Open in 2019, Lundqvist made the move over to the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda for the 2020 season – where he accomplished a nearly perfect season. Over the course of 17 races, Lundqvist and Global Racing Group earned 15 wins, 16 podiums, 16 pole positions, 14 fastest laps and set new track records at five of the six venues.
After claiming the FR Americas Championship, Lundqvist was presented with a scholarship from Honda Performance Development to help move him to the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires in Indy Lights. New to the Road to Indy program, Lundqvist will experience all new tracks [with the exception of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Barber Motorsports Park – which he competed on in FR Americas in 2020] in the 2021 season and will get his first taste of oval and street course action. This past season, Lundqvist conquered new and unfamiliar tracks each weekend and is looking to continue dominating new circuits in the upcoming season.
Nikita Lastochkin – is the other fit
Carlin/Jay Howard’s Driver Development (JHDD) (2)
Alex Peroni – 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.
The ride for JHDD is yet to be announced
Juncos Racing (2)
Sting Ray 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.
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).
Toby Sowery – He competed in the Indy Lights series during the 2019 season. Sowery’s successful year included one win and seven podiums, finishing third overall in one of the most highly competitive fields in the Indy Lights series.
That’s 12 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.”