The Road to Indy platform was a successful one and simplified. The ladder system was designed and branded to help get young drivers on a path towards the NTT INDYCAR Series. You’d go from USF2000 to Indy Pro 2000 to Indy Lights to INDYCAR. However, with Penske Corp landing Indy Lights under their umbrella around this time last year and the 2022 season being the first with both series’ under one ownership, it kind of set a precedence that it split the top two steps of the ladder from the bottom two.
Friday’s announcement furthered that direction and made this path much more puzzling that it needed to be.
Andersen Promotions announced on Friday that they have rebranded the opening steps of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Moving forward, the collective branding for the driver development program will be known as the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires. USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will now become an official step on the ladder alongside USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires and USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires (formerly Indy Pro 2000).
Now the Andersen series’ are branded USF while the Penske Corp “INDYCAR.” It was better with all the Road to Indy being branded “Indy” in the name rather than USF. I can see where this could get confusing for the fans.
What got me is the wording on Friday’s announcement too.
“The decision came as INDYCAR, which assumed operations of Indy Lights in 2022, reassesses its overall branding with dual management of the ladder steps between INDYCAR and Andersen Promotions and, for 2023, different tire partners.”
Why would they need to reassess branding? Is this the top steps of the ladder telling them t or is this on their own? Why not just keep it status quo? Nothing changes in terms of how the races will run, where they’ll run and how they’re operated. However, it feels like they’re growing further apart.
Yes, both USF Pro 2000 and USF2000 will continue with INDYCAR services including INDYCAR race control, timing & scoring and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team. USF Juniors will also utilize AMR Safety Team services with race control and timing & scoring provided by USAC. However, the naming, the words and both using different tire makes (USF – Cooper Tires, INDYCAR/Indy Lights – Firestone) make this feel like they’re separated now.
“Although we are rebranding the Road to Indy, our goals remain the same – to develop drivers, teams and crew to advance to Indy Lights and ultimately the NTT IndyCar Series,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “With INDYCAR taking over the operation of Indy Lights this year, the Road to Indy designation really doesn’t work moving forward for all steps on the ladder. We are proud of our accomplishments under the Road to Indy banner and intend to further develop the full USF Pro Championships as the only real place for talented young drivers on the open-wheel path.”
Scholarships to advance from USF Juniors into USF2000, USF2000 into USF Pro 2000 and USF Pro 2000 to Indy Lights will remain intact. All 2022 champions — Mac Clark, Michael d’Orlando and Louis Foster — will prepare for their next steps on the ladder in 2023 with Foster being the first to confirm his new home with an Andretti Autosport Indy Lights seat.
As the Official Racing School of the USF Pro Championships beginning in 2023, the Skip Barber Racing School will also be a pathway to the ladder system with a $100,000 scholarship to its Formula Race Series champion to advance into USF Juniors.
The 2023 schedules for all three levels of the USF Pro Championships will be announced in the coming days.