Slightly lost between yesterday’s closed IndyCar test at Sebring and the ruckus over the “Lucky Dog” (hey, it isn’t Green-White-Checkered, so I’m ok) news was the announcement that Josef Newgarden will be joining Sam Schmidt Motorsports for a full-season program in Firestone Indy Lights.
Newgarden, at all of 20 years old, has already raced in Europe the last two years, most recently in GP3, where he showed marked improvement in the second half of the season. Before that, he was the first American to win at the famous Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. He racked up 11 wins in two separate series in 2009, and finished second overall in British Formula Ford for the year.
Josef is a pretty well-regarded prospect, and I have a feeling we’ll see him get up to speed very quickly in Lights. I believe a lot of people felt like he was destined to drive in the various European series, so having an American prospect of his caliber return to Lights should be good news for the fans and for the series. We’ll have to see how he does, but Newgarden could be a star for IndyCar in a couple of years if he performs as well as I think he will.
Indy Lights still has more drivers to be announced, most notably at Andretti Autosport (where it’s looking like Philip Major and Stefan Wilson), as well as AFS and Bryan Herta’s team. But between drivers such as Newgarden, Anders Krohn, and Esteban Guerrieri, I’m thinking we should have a pretty lively battle for the Indy Lights championship.