Veteran NTT IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti wishes his contemporaries would join him in the Indy Lights Series.
The step just below the IndyCar Series is currently comprised of 10 full-time teams, fielded by four different owners. Andretti Autosport three of those full-time cars and another part-time car that will be driven by godson Jarett Andretti in May during the Freedom 100.
Given the depth of talent that has passed through Lights over the past half-decade, a list that includes the likes of Colton Herta, Zach Veach, Matheus Leist, Spencer Pigot and Patricio O'Ward, Andretti doesn’t understand why it has largely fallen to his organization to cultivate the next-generation of open-wheel hopefuls.
Even though Jarett is his Michael’s godson, the younger Andretti still represents a link to IndyCar’s roots as he is a USAC Sprint Car standout — the kind of driver the 1991 CART champion believes needs to be courted to Indy Lights.
"It's very important," Michael Andretti said on Friday at Long Beach. "I think it's very important to the series. I think it really ticks me off some of the owners that don't get behind it. Look at the talent that comes out of the series every year. One comes out, comes in, they're competitive."
Even 2017 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden is a product of the series, having won the 2011 championship with Sam Schmidt Motorsports before that current IndyCar Series organization withdrew to focus entirely on the highest level.
Teams like Penske or Ganassi have a longstanding policy of hiring drivers sharpened by other organizations, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well with Andretti.
And it’s a point that goes well beyond just training drivers.
"It's a really good training ground for our drivers," Andretti said. "I think we all should get behind it. I do get really pissed off, to be honest with you, that they don't get more involved because in the end it's good for all of us if we make the ladder series strong. It's just going to bring more talent. Not only just the drivers, but the mechanics you can train, you can train engineers.
"It works very, very well for us. It's something that I'm not going to give up on. I think there's some plans to make it better in the future, which I'm actually pretty excited about. I think IndyCar is realizing how important it is. I think you'll see them get behind it a little more."
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