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Firestone Indy Lights continues growth
2008 Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos
After completing a competitive 2008 season that saw 10 different winners and a championship battle that came down to the final race, Firestone Indy Lights continues to see unprecedented growth as the 2009 season approaches.

Five new teams have announced intentions to compete in the IndyCar Series’ official developmental series this season alongside series mainstays such as Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Andretti Green Racing, Panther Racing and Team Moore Racing. In addition, several other teams remain in contact with series officials in hopes of joining the grid before the 16-race schedule begins on April 5 at St. Petersburg

As a result, there has been a nearly 200 percent increase in announced car-driver combinations from this time over a year ago, including returning drivers J.R. Hildebrand, Sean Guthrie and Andrew Prendeville as well as newcomers Martin Plowman (F3 EuroSeries), Gustavo Yacaman (Spanish F3) and Sebastian Saavedra (German F3).

All hope to follow the path blazed by recent Firestone Indy Lights graduates Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV, Hideki Mutoh and Raphael Matos into the IndyCar Series.

“Firestone Indy Lights is definitely one of the first places people look to further their racing careers,” said Roger Bailey, executive director of Firestone Indy Lights. “The balance of the schedule between seven ovals and eight road and street courses, almost $4 million in prize money, new events at Long Beach, Toronto and Edmonton and a stringent cost containment program are just some of the reasons why people say they are looking at us.”

In an effort to help the series remain one of the most cost-effective developmental series in the world, Firestone Indy Lights officials have worked to maintain the capital expenditures associated with competing in the series. That includes but is not limited to the current Firestone Indy Lights spec chassis, which will continue to be used through the end of the 2011 season.

Also adding to the growth and stability of the series is the continuing commitment of Firestone as the series' title sponsor. Firestone’s partnership enhances the overall prize fund, which sees an increase in 2009, as well as several contingency and bonus programs that are paid to teams in addition to the money that can be earned by on-track performance.

Firestone again will sponsor the "Lucky Three," which will pay bonuses to three randomly selected teams that finish outside the top-10 in each race, while at selected events it will pay a $1,000 "Image Award" to the team which best represents the Firestone brand.

“Over the past few seasons, Firestone Indy Lights has provided some of the closest, most exciting racing found in any series around the globe,” said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing, which will also award a bonus to the winner of the Firestone Firehawk Cup, which is given to the series champion. “Considering the fact that Firestone Indy Lights offers such a competitive and entertaining on-track product at an affordable, contained cost, it is no real surprise to see the increase in entries for 2009. The Firestone brand is proud to once again serve as the title sponsor and Official Tire of Firestone Indy Lights, and we are looking forward to another great season of racing.”

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