As it's a Far Cry from the Days when winning the Lights title ensured Yuhs a Championship Bonus to run an entire IndyCar season, a la Simon Pagenaud...
Whilst Marcus Miles struts round with his Chest Proudly Puffed Out, as Everythingys' GURR-REAT! In Indy Cars... Cock A Doo-little-Du', I just Sold Out the Series to those Fine Folks at comca$t
It's fairly Sad noting that the Sanctioning Body's Top Feeder Series past three Champions are All struggling to find Fulltime rides in IndyCar.
As only 2016 Indy Lights Champion Ed Jones has a "Secure" ride at the moment, albeit just running the Road Courses & Street Circuits as a Twisties' Only Specialist for Ed Carpenter Racing. (ECR)
While the verdict's still out upon how many races 2017 Champ' Kyle Kiser will run for the Minnowesqe Juncos Racing squad this season? And we All know the torments 'O reigning Lights Champion Pato O'Ward's current plight, having lost his Drive at Harding Steinbrenner Racing just a month before the season commences.
As this set my Mind Ah-Wonderin' once again, just how many past Lights Champions remain in Indy Cars with a Fulltime Drive from the past decade? For which I'm somewhat chagrinned to learn the answer is a paltry two! Or just 20%, albeit this number increases to four with the inclusion 'O Jones and Kiser from above, albeit still just 40%. And Thar Not running Full seasons...
Although it was thee OLD-est IndyCar blogger Geo. Phillips; Hya! Of Oilpressure Fame who first alerted Mwah to the Factoid that O'Ward had very unwisely foregone a partial season's eight race Dealio with Mikey A'.
Which George rightly mused. A part time ride with Andretti Autosport would be vastly superior to what was left on the marketplace. Noting how Rocket Rick' Mears partial season ride with El Capitano', nee Roger Penske worked out pretty decently in the long run, Righto?
In the five years between thoust nebulous Bookend years, prior to the 2019 season, only a total of 10 former Lights racers have graduated to the Big Leagues', aka Indy Cars, albeit last year's Rookie crop was not a typical reflection of Lights Graduates, being only Outdone by 2011's Indy Cars Rookie Class of nine Lights Drivers moving forward.
Having perused thou 2011 IndyCar Rookie Class mostly since I know that's when thee Mayor 'O Hinchtown', aka James Hinchcliffe first put on his "big boy Pants" and joined Newman Haas Lanagin Racing...
As the following ten Indy Lights Drivers graduated to the B-I-G CARZ' Ranks circa 2012-2017: Josef Newgarden, (2012) Tristan Vautier, (2013) Jack Hawksworth, (2014) Gabby Chaves, (2015) Sage Karam, (2015) Mathew Brabham, (2016) Max Chiltin, (2016) Conor Daly, (2016) Spenser Pigot (2016) and Ed Jones. (2017)
Then adding last year's 2018 Rookie Crop of Zachary Claman DeMelo, Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, (2018 Finale) Kyle Kiser, Matheus Leist, Patricio O'Ward (2018 Finale) and Zach Veach. The total Balloons to 17 Lights graduates.
Although I'm pretty certain that both Colton Herta and Patricio O'Ward would be classified as Rookies this year instead...
Whilst further including Hinch's stellar 2011 class into thou mix, i.e.; Dillon Battistini, Ana Beatriz, Wade Cunningham, J.R. Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Martin Plowman and Sebastian Saavedra.
We're left with a total of 26 Indy Lights Graduates to Indy Cars, enough to make up the entire Grid in 2019! Although of these 26 Drivers, only 11 remain on Indy Cars current season roster, excluding One-Off appearances at Mother Speedway. Which by my very quick Ryth-Muh-tickin' is less than 50%!
And although Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar Series Champion indeed is part of that Mega' 2011 Rookie Class, I've not included him since he's a Graduate of the long Defunct Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda rival Feeder Series instead, which he won in 2006.
As Y'all try sayin' that Champ Car Atlantic title really Fast Five Times, Eh?
So, with longtime Indy Lights Financial Backer Mazda now Gone, is the glass, or Shoei' half empty or half full? Although Anderson Promotions is still enticing participants with the Road to Indy Scholarship prize. Which has seen Thar competitor with the longest name emblazoned on his Overalls, ZCD of Footwear Fame, aka Zachary Claman DeMelo returning to another campaign this season for Belardi Auto Racing, in order to hopefully run in the 104th Indianapolis 500, in an All Expenses Paid ride.
But then again, becoming Lights Champion doesn't seem to do much for promising a long term career in Indy Cars...
Indy Lights Champions
2008) Rafael Matos, Brazil; AGR-AFS Racing
2009) J. R. Hildebrand, USA; AGR-AFS Racing
2010) Jean Karl Vernay, France; Sam Schmidt Motorsports
2011) Josef Newgarden, USA; Sam Schmidt Motorsports
2012) Tristan Vautier, France; Sam Schmidt Motorsports
2013) Sage Karam, USA; Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
2014) Gabby Chaves, Columbia; Belardi Auto Racing
2015) Spencer Pigot, USA; Juncos Racing
2016) Ed Jones, UAE; Carlin
2017) Kyle Kiser, USA; Juncos Racing
2018) Patricio O'Ward, Mexico; Andretti autosport