Future looks bleak for Indy Lights series

CART's Indy Lights championship could go out of business at the end of this year following opposition from a rival Indy Racing League series

Future looks bleak for Indy Lights series

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway owns the rights to the Lights name and CART Indy Lights president Roger Bailey says his series may be unable to meet the criteria it must adhere to if it is to continue using the name.

Meanwhile Indianapolis president Tony George is thought to be close to launching his own IRL Lights series which will include two races at the brickyard, one on the oval during the month of May, and the other on the road course on Saturday of the United States Grand Prix weekend. George's series is expected to use Dallara chassis and 3.0-litre Judd V8 engines, while Bailey has been unable to reach new agreements for either chassis or engines beyond the end of this year.

"Until the rope's put around your neck, there's always hope," Bailey said. "But we're certainly on death row."

Bailey has been very critical of CART in recent weeks and places the blame for the failure of his series squarely at CART's door. CART bought the Indy Lights series in 1998 and also owns the Toyota Atlantic championship but both series have suffered dwindling fields in the past two years. At Milwaukee this weekend there are only twelve Lights entries and fifteen Atlantic cars. The Lights series has fallen from a high of twenty-eight cars in 1997 to eighteen or fewer last year and has had 10 starters at some of this year's early-season races.

At the same time the series is struggling for media exposure and any Lights team owner has a story to tell about how impossible it is to sell domestic sponsorship for the series.

"Our position is self-inflicted," Bailey said. "We've only got management to blame for where we're at. CART has done nothing to assist our position."

Bailey believes CART intends to ditch Indy Lights and focus on running just one support series, that being Toyota Atlantic. He said: "Midway through last year when Bobby was CEO he decided there should be only one support series and - based on I don't know what - he threw his hat in the ring with Toyota Atlantic."

According to Bailey, a letter from Rahal outlining the plans to go with one series was circulated last winter, causing some existing Lights team owners to discontunue their operations.

"It was a confidential letter," said Bailey, "and how the hell it got into the hands of some of the people it got into, I have no idea, but it did. People were convinced that at the end of the 2001 season Lights was going away and Atlantic was going to be the only support series."

CART spokesman Ron Richards denied Bailey's charge but admitted CART had no timetable for a new Lights chassis-engine package.

"I'm in charge of making the thing work but I've been given no authority to do it," Bailey countered. "I'm sitting here like a pimple on a pig's bum."

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