The announcement of Indy NXT was met with mixed feelings. The former Indy Lights series has been rebranded to Indy NXT in an attempt to make the primary development series for IndyCar more appealing to fans.
In the past, the series has been a great proving ground for the stars of tomorrow and while the name has changed, the DNA has stayed the same. Here are five reasons to be excited about Indy NXT in 2023.
1. 14-Race Calendar
Just like last year, the Indy NXT calendar shows similarities to the IndyCar Series. With a mixture of road courses, street courses, and ovals, the drivers will be tested in all facets of open-wheel racing. The driver who wants to win Indy NXT needs to be good on all types of tracks. History has shown that any weakness could severely harm their chances at winning the championship. The only minor change for the season is in Detroit. IndyCar is moving away from Belle Isle, to downtown Detroit. Unfortunately, there is still no indication that the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis will return, however, there are still some very interesting races awaiting the drivers, including the season opener in the streets of St. Petersburg, the iconic road course of Road America, the short-oval Iowa Speedway and the season finale at Laguna Seca.
2. $1.4 million prize pool
Penske Entertainment faced a lot of criticism for the small prize pool. Linus Lundqvist only received $500,000 for winning the series and has not been able to find a full-time drive in IndyCar. His predecessor, 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood, received a grand total of $1.2 million for winning. This helped Kirkwood secure a full-time drive for A.J. Foyt Racing. Penske has responded by upping the prize pool for the top three places. A guaranteed $850,000 is waiting for the new Indy NXT champion, along with future IndyCar tests and an entry into the 2024 Indianapolis 500. Finishing second in the championship garners $125,000 and third $60,000. This gives drivers a huge incentive to win the series, if it wasn’t already there.
3. A big field awaits
The cancelation of the 2020 season might have been a blessing in disguise for this series because only 10 cars were confirmed to be on the grid. For 2023, however, it is expected to be a field of at least 19 cars. Having a good field with highly rated prospects should provide all the ingredients needed for a very entertaining season and a very exciting championship battle.
4. Jamie Chadwick
The three-time W Series champion is making the jump across the Atlantic to Indy NXT. She dominated the W Series since its inception in 2019, especially in 2022, when Chadwick experienced her most impressive W series campaign to date. The British driver won five out of seven rounds, while finishing second in another, and only had one DNF. Furthermore, the lead over her nearest championship rival, Beitske Visser, was a grand total of 50 points. Andretti must have big plans for her in IndyCar because they have tied her to a deal with DHL. Can she become the next female star in American Motorsport?
5. A look at the past gives a glimpse of the future
In the last few years, some exciting prospects came through Indy NXT. Drivers like David Malukas, Kirkwood, Rinus Veekay, Pato O’Ward, and Colton Herta, have impressed fans and experts alike. They all made their first steps in Indy NXT, then known as Indy Lights. You never know who might pop up and show themselves worthy of an IndyCar drive. Before you know it, you might be watching a future IndyCar champion develop right in front of your eyes.
Indy NXT launches on March 5th, 2023 in the streets of St. Petersburg on Peacock.