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What is Indy NXT?

The Indy NXT field at the start of the 2023 Indy NXT Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (James Black/Penske Entertainment)

Feeder Series are an important part of motorsports. The NASCAR Xfinity Series, Formula 2, and Indy NXT are the best way for talent to develop before getting to the big time, but what exactly is Indy NXT?

Indy NXT is the final step in the ladder before the IndyCar Series. Penske Entertainment, the owners of the IndyCar Series, tried to give the series a facelift, rebranding Indy Lights to Indy NXT in the same vein as WWE’s NXT developmental brand. On the track, the primary support series has been around under various names since 1977. The current iteration of Indy NXT has been around since 2002.

The Structure

Indy NXT’s season has 14 rounds, while IndyCar has 17 rounds. However, the season is still pretty similar. The calendar features a mix of road and street courses, as well as ovals. Race distances are less than IndyCar, but are on par with other feeder series around the world. Since 2022, the points system has been exactly the same as in IndyCar. 50 points are awarded to the winner of a race, 40 to second place, and 35 to third place. This runs all the way down to last place, as all drivers score points in IndyCar.

Bonus points are awarded for qualifying on pole, leading a lap, and leading the most laps during a race. Penske Entertainment is doing a lot of work to make the transition between IndyCar and Indy NXT as smooth as possible. As of 2023, Indy NXT also uses Firestone as their tire supplier, as does the IndyCar Series.

The Alumni

Looking at recent graduates gives a glimpse of why you should watch it. Drivers like Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, and Rinus Veekay have made the step into IndyCar and shown their worth. The argument can be made that IndyCar, and thus its feeder series, are the most versatile championships in all of motorsport. Just like in IndyCar, racing is chaotic at times, however, it’s also a good way to learn the trade.

Because of its chaotic nature, Indy NXT is very entertaining to watch. Young drivers want to stand out while their possible future employers are watching in the paddock. In recent years, major IndyCar teams like Andretti Autosport, Ed Carpenter Racing, and Juncos Hollinger Racing have programs to help find and develop talented drivers, similar to Formula 1’s young driver academies. All to make the jump from Indy NXT to IndyCar less daunting. This helps the number of entries in the field. More cars on the grid means more competition, and more competition brings out the best in drivers.

Indy NXT in its current form is new. Time will tell if it can measure up to the likes of Formula 2, but the intention behind it is very good. While that business talk is important to mention, the most important thing for viewers is the racing product. Racing in this series is up there with the best in the world. The added bonus is watching potential future stars develop in front of your eyes.

Featured Image Credit: James Black/Penske Entertainment


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