INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, announced this week that it will award the winner of the United States Auto Club’s(USAC) inaugural National Drivers Championship with a scholarship to compete in Firestone Indy Lights during the 2011 season.
The scholarship will allow the 2010 USAC National Drivers Champion to run an oval schedule in Firestone Indy Lights, kicking off at the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"As we look forward to the future of IndyCar, we feel it is important that we embrace our roots," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. "I’m pleased we have formed this partnership with USAC, which was founded by Tony Hulman and produced legendary champions such as A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. This is an important initiative to continue the tradition of USAC oval racers competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
The USAC champion’s scholarship will allow short-track, open-wheel drivers a path to the “Road to Indy,” the development ladder system launched by IndyCar earlier this year for career-minded open-wheel formula car drivers.
"I have listened to countless fans say we need more American drivers, and I don’t disagree, but I think it’s more important to say we want the best American drivers in the world," Bernard said. "I’m a firm believer in our official ladder system the Road to Indy. The experience the Road to Indy provides is essential for drivers to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series. We hope to have some significant changes in the near future that enhance and strengthen the Road to Indy."
USAC’s National Drivers Champion will be crowned based on points earned in all three National Series – Silver Crown, Sprints and Midgets. USAC will tally points for the best 25 finishes of competitors for recognizing the overall National Drivers Champion.
"IndyCar is the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing, and USAC is honored to have this opportunity to share this new relationship and build the Road to Indy through USAC," said USAC President and CEO Kevin Miller. "We look forward to extending our heritage with Indy car racing while presenting new, exciting opportunities for our participants."
The USAC-IndyCar partnership also includes cross-promotional marketing components that allow IndyCar to become involved in USAC events as well as extend the IZOD IndyCar experience to USAC fans beginning in 2011.