Force Indy is moving up to the Indy Lights world. They’ll bring Ernie Francis Jr. with them in a mega announcement that was unveiled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a chilly Thursday morning in January.
Haitian American Francis heads to Force Indy after three wins in his lone season in the Formula Regional Americas Championship and a second-place finish in the inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX), with a win at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Florida native Francis, 24, is also a seven-time class champion in the Trans Am Series (2014-2020). His 47 career victories are the most of any driver in Trans Am history. His 24 wins in the premier TA category trail only Paul Gentilozzi (31), Mark Donohue (29) and Tommy Kendall (28).
With that said, where does the entry list now sit?
I have 13 cars entered with a potential for a few more to come. We’re on track to be ahead of last year’s car count which was where it currently sits at the moment at 13.
Andretti Autosport had four cars last year and will do so again in 2022. This time, they’ll have Sting Ray Robb, Hunter McElrea, Christian Rasmussen and Matthew Brabham.
McElrea, 22, moves up from Indy Pro 2000. He was fifth in the series in 2020 and third last year. Both with Pabst Racing. He had four wins in two seasons. That came after a year in USF2000 where he had four wins during the 2019 campaign with a final finish of second in the standings.
Rasmussen, 21, won the 2020 USF2000 title as well as the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 championship. Can he go three straight? He’s been a Jay Howard Developmental driver and has won 19 times in three years in the Road to Indy category. He was third in points as a rookie in USF2000 in 2019 with three wins. He won nine times in 2020 and seven a year ago.
Robb, 20, is the youngest of the group but maybe the most experience in the Road to Indy program. He first joined it in 2017 in Pro Mazda. He raced four years in that category, reaching victory lane seven times, all with Juncos in 2020 which netted him the series championship. That allowed him scholarship money to graduate up to Indy Lights last year with the team where he finished eighth.
Brabham, 27, first entered the Road to Indy ladder with the USF2000 Championship in 2012, where he captured the 2012 championship with four wins and 11 podium finishes. The 2012 USF2000 scholarship propelled the Australian-American to the Indy Pro 2000 field where 13 victories, 10 pole positions and 15 podiums led to the 2013 title and the chance to compete in Indy Lights for the 2014 season. Brabham went on to collect one victory, one pole position and 10 top-five finishes in 17 Indy Lights race starts.
Global Racing Group and HMD once again will partner. They had four cars last year but only three announced so far. Word is a fourth is still potentially coming which will grow the overall car count to 14.
They’ll have Benjamin Pederson back in the 24 in the GRG/HMD entry. Pedersen, 22, from Denmark, finished fourth in the championship standings as an Indy Lights rookie in 2021, trailing teammates David Malukas (second) and Linus Lundqvist (third) and champion Kyle Kirkwood. He recorded six podium finishes in the No. 24 entry.
The HMD cars will be Danial Frost and Christian Bogle.
Bogle, 20, who will shift from Carlin to HMD Motorsports for the 2022 season. He produced 11 top 10 finishes in his 20 starts a year ago. What’s wild is, this will mark just his fourth year of racing all together with him being very raw in terms of his motorsports experience.
Frost, 20, was in USF2000 in 2018 for seven races, Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 and 2020 where he finished fifth and third respectively the two years including three combined wins before moving up to Indy Lights with Andretti last year where he finished fifth in the final standings on the heels of four podiums, three of which being runner-ups as well as seven total top fives and 17 top 10’s in 20 starts.
Those are the only two teams from last year so far confirmed for 2022. Carlin, Juncos and Pserra Racing have yet to announce plans. Carlin and Juncos each had 2 cars with Pserra 1.
In their absence though comes Abel Motorsports, Exclusive Autosport, TJ Speed Motorsports and Force Indy.
Exclusive Autosport and TJ Speed Motorsports each will run two cars and with Exclusive’s entries still TBA. TJ Speed will feature Kyffin Simpson in one car and James Roe Jr. in the other.
Simpson, 17, ran Indy Pro 2000 last year where he had three podiums in 16 starts with Juncos. He finished eighth in the final standings.
Roe Jr., 23, raced USF2000 in 2018 for two races the came back here last year in Indy Pro 2000. He won the season finale and finished seventh in the final points, one spot ahead of Simpson.
Jacob Abel will race for his family team at Abel Motorsports. Abel, 20, has made 39 starts in Indy Pro 2000 the last three years but was winless in all. He was a career best sixth in the final standings last year, one spot ahead of Roe Jr. and two ahead of Simpson.
That’s 5 of the top 8 in Indy Pro 2000 last year all graduating up to Indy Lights. There’s also three drivers from Indy Lights last year returning as well.
So, what’s next?
GRG should have one more entry. Then does Carlin, Juncos or Pserra come back? It’s not looking like any of those three will but I never say never in racing.