Hot off the heels of the announcement of Mazda pulling their sponsorship of the Road to Indy series, Indycar officials have announced a new points based license system for the American open wheel series.
Similar to the Superlicense Formula One has used for years, the new Indycar program would see drivers accrue points by racking up wins and championship results in Indy Lights.
“It’s for sure a guideline, something we didn’t have before, and as we’ve had a lot of expansion lately, we thought it was appropriate to create a formula on how to become an IndyCar driver,” Jay Frye, Indycar Competition President told reporters. "We wanted to create another data point that would define if a driver is ready for a testing or a full-scale IndyCar race license."
Drivers are able to gain automatic elegibility to race in Indycar by finishing in the top three of a full Indy Lights season or by finishing in the top five of two Indy Lights seasons. Driver's coming to the sport from either NASCAR's Moster Energy Cup Series or from Formula One qualify for automatic eligibility.
The series has also introduced a 'test license' which will allow for perspective drivers to qualify to participate in testing for the Indycar Series.
"We didn’t have anything to hand them and say, here it is," Frye elaborated. "Dan Anderson’s group (who promotes the Mazda Road to Indy) has a nice thing to show them how to get involved in the Mazda Road to Indy Ladder Series and how much it costs. But if you have a true ladder series, you should have them go through your system. However, if we have a kid that is in Pro Mazda doing extremely well, we don’t want to preclude that kid from having a test in IndyCar. "
Although elegibity for drivers entering Indycar from other series are not specifically mentioned, Frye has said they will be evaluated on a case to case basis.
“Not every series in the world is mentioned, so we’ll take each case individually, and some are streamlined for licensing like Formula 1 and the Monster Energy Cup Series," he said. "But overall, we want to focus this process and use Indy Lights as a training ground, where necessary, to get drivers ready for our diverse set of tracks and challenges in IndyCar.”
Simply put, drivers from other series such as DTM, WEC, or IMSA that have a wealth of experience need not worry about making it into Indycar (looking at you, Robert Wickens). Drivers like Rene Binder or Jordan King, however, may have ended up on the short end of the stick and could have found themselves ineligible for an Indycar seat had the program been implemented before the 2018 season.