[Source: INDYCAR press release]
INDYCAR announced a leadership restructuring of Firestone Indy Lights, the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder that serves as an essential step for drivers and teams seeking to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Tony George Jr., who has served as the series’ manager of business development, will take over as director of Firestone Indy Lights from Roger Bailey, who retired after more than 25 years in a leadership role with Indy Lights.
Jason Penix, INDYCAR’s manager of grassroots marketing since 2010, will expand his duties as director of grassroots initiatives.
Vince Kremer, longtime team manager at HVM Racing, has joined INDYCAR as Firestone Indy Lights technical director while Tony Cotman will return to race control for the series.
“Tony and Jason have a passion for the series, and I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in their expanded roles” said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. “Adding Vince to the Firestone Indy Lights team provides a solid base on the technical side to complement Tony Cotman in Race Control.”
George, 28, is part of the latest generation of the Hulman-George family involved with Indy car racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The eldest son of INDYCAR founder Tony George, he has worked with Indianapolis Motor Speedway or INDYCAR since he was 16-years-old. A graduate of Indiana University, George served internships with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway facilities department and INDYCAR’s competition department with an emphasis on Firestone Indy Lights.
Since joining INDYCAR in 2008, he has been a key figure in developing Firestone Indy Lights’ footprint as the third step in the Mazda Road to Indy, INDYCAR’s developmental ladder, which debuted in 2010.
“Firestone Indy Lights has seen steady growth since coming under INDYCAR sanction, and it continues to grow in the depth of competition and stature as the essential step to the IZOD IndyCar Series,” George said. “It is important to develop young drivers both on and off the track for their careers to flourish. We have aggressive goals for the series, including making it a technological proving ground for manufacturers looking to enter INDYCAR.
“The team that we’re bringing on board this upcoming season is the strongest team we’ve had thus far. With the addition of Vince and the return of Tony [Cotman], Firestone Indy Lights will certainly have the essential backbone it needs to grow as a series and continue to make its mark as the premier ladder series in open-wheel racing.”
Penix, 28, will be the primary contact for the Mazda Road to Indy and continue to manage INDYCAR’s growing relationships with go-karting groups and the United States Auto Club. He joined in INDYCAR as an intern in 2005, and following his graduation from Indiana University was hired in the marketing department full time in 2007.
“Tony and I have worked closely over the last two years in building the Mazda Road to Indy and this is a natural extension of that relationship,” Penix said. “The ladder system has shown its potential already and I’m grateful for the chance to help it grow further.”
Kremer has more than 25 years of experience in auto racing, spending the past 12 years with HVM Racing, where he most recently served as team manager. Kremer started his racing career with Team Penske.
“I am very excited about joining INDYCAR and Firestone Indy Lights,” Kremer said. “It has been a fantastic series from its inception, and I am honored to have the opportunity to grow that tradition. The Firestone Indy Lights program provides a perfect step in the Mazda Road to Indy and I am happy to be a part of it.”
The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights season kicks off on March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Teams recently completed a one-day test at Sebring International Raceway. Other scheduled Firestone Indy Lights Open Tests include March 19-20 at Barber Motorsports Park, April 17 at Auto Club Speedway and May 11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Firestone Indy Lights veterans Sebastian Saavedra, Esteban Guerrieri, Gustavo Yacaman, Victor Carbone and Jorge Goncalvez return to the grid this season this. Star Mazda champion Tristan Vautier is one the rookies graduating to the Firestone Indy Lights as part of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system.