That's the question that will likely be on a lot of minds as we enter the last part of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. Looking at the crop of prospects from the last few years, there are definitely some drivers ready to make the jump--while for others, it's not such a sure thing. Here's a quick rundown of some of the most common names from Lights that could consider a move up to the big cars:
Carlos Munoz: Essentially a done deal. Whether or not he wins the Lights championship seems almost immaterial at this point, as he seems all but certain to be full-time at Andretti Autosport in IndyCar next year. Munoz's run at Indianapolis was nothing short of spectacular, and he has a bright future--although like anyone else, he'll have his rookie bruises and bumps along the way.
Gabby Chaves: The Colombian-American hopeful has come on strong in Lights, and is a sharp, young talent with a lot of productive years ahead of him. He's only a single year removed from Star Mazda though, so it would behoove him to hang around and make a Lights title run, while gaining some more experience. Still, there's no denying his aptitude behind the wheel.
Jack Hawksworth: If you had asked me a year ago, I thought J-Hawk was absolutely a shoo-in for the top level of open wheel racing in America. But a Firestone Indy Lights season with plenty of growing pains--and some dismal oval outings--has caused some reservations at the next level. Hawksworth clearly has talent, and it sounds as if he's all about trying to move up next season. He might need some adjustment time, and would definitely benefit from more oval experience.
Jorge Goncalvez: The Belardi driver showed flashes of excellent a couple of years ago, but seems tentative and a bit regressed these days. If he has what is needed to excel at the top level of INDYCAR, he certainly hasn't shown it lately.
Peter Dempsey: One of the most hard-luck drivers in recent Firestone Indy Lights memory, Dempsey's amazing Firestone Freedom 100 victory was hopefully the sort of breakthrough he needed. The 27 year-old Irish racer should definitely get his chance at the next level after learning and enduring in his own special Lights Purgatory. Time for someone to give him the chance he needs.
|Dempsey: Ready for Primetime|
(Courtesy IndyCar Media. Image by Jim Haines)
Stefan Wilson: Wilson hasn't been a full-time Lights competitor since 2011, and since then has been close to getting a shot in IndyCar a couple of times, it seems. We'll see him with Dale Coyne Racing likely at Baltimore this season. Wilson should be very ready to take care of business at the next tier of the sport.
Zach Veach: Ziggy is a young driver who knows what he wants, and has proven remarkably adept at securing sponsorship and the art of self-promotion. I would say he needs at least another full year in Lights to hone his craft, but I'm also betting we might see him in a one-off in IndyCar next year--possibly Indianapolis. As one of the youngest drivers on this list, he certainly has time to make things happen.