Andersen Promotions has created a new junior open-wheel series to help young drivers progress onto the Road to Indy ladder.Launching in 2022, USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will offer a prize package exceeding $325,000 including a scholarship valued at more than $200,000 to advance to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship (main image) – the first official step on the RTI.
The new series will be sanctioned by USAC with a schedule that will be announced in the next few weeks comprising six road-course race weekends, most with triple-header rounds for a total of 16-18 races. For 2022, the Ligier JS chassis and HPD powerplant will be utilized with long-time series engine builder Elite Engines performing all new builds and rebuilds. Cooper Tires will develop a series-specific tire for the triple-header events with two sets of tires allocated for each event weekend. Budgets are expected to be in the $120,000 to $150,000 range, and the series will be open to drivers as young as 14 years of age.
“There are numerous routes into the Road to Indy, but it has become apparent that one additional entry level step was needed,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Our current first step – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – has become extremely more competitive from a global scale of driving talent than what used to be considered as entry level.
“Our goal with USF Juniors is to provide a true entry level series that is professionally managed where drivers, teams and parents can focus on training and racing via shorter, more economical events, while also lowering the spotlight on young drivers that often occurs on IndyCar race weekends. Our entry level drivers will learn the skills needed for them to move onto the Road to Indy, with less pressure. The new series will be choreographed with our current programs and tremendous partnership with Cooper Tires. The feedback I have received from team owners has been nothing but positive.”
In addition to a team from Andersen Promotions’ current staff, former Indy Lights race winner and sports car racer Gustavo Yacaman will fill the role of series manager. Yacaman now leads the YACademy Winter Series, a training ground for drivers looking to make the move from karts to cars. Andersen Promotions will work closely with the YACademy as a pre-season testing opportunity for USF Juniors as well as USF2000 and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
“I am really excited to get this program off the ground together with Dan Andersen,” said Yacaman. “Our successful strategies in place at the YACademy Winter Series will be brought to this new series with all the support and resources that Andersen Promotions has to offer. Huge thanks to Cooper Tires for believing in this project from day one. Without their support, none of this would be possible.
“We will be very focused on driver training and making sure that young drivers really learn the right way of racing an open-wheel car in a highly competitive environment.”
Current Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 race directors Johnny Unser and Joel Miller will oversee race control and will work directly with USF Juniors official driver coach Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights champion, in preparing drivers to take the next step on the ladder.
“We’re enjoying an increasing number of drivers coming to USF2000 from assorted junior programs each year, so creating this new platform will only pay dividends when it comes to properly training the young racers who want to move into the Road To Indy,” said Rob Howden, Road to Indy Series Development Director. “The USF Juniors program will immerse these young drivers in our culture and our approach to training and race direction. I believe that this will only serve to further increase the quality of the competition in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 in the coming years. The drivers will learn the Road to Indy approach and atmosphere, which I believe sets us apart from other programs.”
Registration for USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will open in November. The USF Juniors website can be found at http://usfjuniors.com/ and is currently in development.