Dominic and Nicholas Cape’s master plan has their racing team going from competing in USF2000 to possibly the NTT IndyCar Series in just a few short years.
The brothers put their plan into motion by moving their entire business operation that includes Cape Brothers Speed Shop from St. Petersburg, Florida up to Brownsburg, Indiana in a building owned by NHRA legend John Force. The move took place shortly before the pandemic and helped get the team in a situation where advancement up the Road to Indy became possible.
“Once we decided we were going to move, then we had a long term plan of what we wanted to do,” Dominic Cape said. “And that got pushed back a little bit through the COVID stuff and all that. So the plan was always to go to Indy Lights and then that’ll give us a certain period of time to move up into IndyCar.”
The Cape brothers announced recently their team is moving from USF2000 to Indy Lights for the 2023 racing season in a two-car effort.
The brothers bided their time to wait for the right opportunity to move up the open-wheel racing ladder. The first step toward the Indy Lights move was seeing Penske Entertainment Corporation take ownership of the Indy Lights championship after the 2021 racing season. While Carlin and Juncos Racing suspended their respective Indy Lights programs for 2022, HMD Motorsports increased its car count while TJ Speed Motorsports and Force Indy also joined the series.
The 2023 Indy Lights season will see additional growth as HMD Motorsports will expand from four to six cars while Legacy Autosport announced that they will also join Indy Lights with two cars.
The series announced that Firestone will be replacing Cooper as the series’ tire supplier ahead of the 2023 season, resuming their involvement with Indy Lights that ceased after the 2013 season. With a playing field now leveled with Firestone’s return, the timing was now right for the Capes to sell their four USF2000 cars and make their return to Indy Lights after they managed RLR Andersen Racing’s Indy Lights team in 2007-2008 and their own Indy Lights effort in 2010.
After deciding roughly four months ago that Indy Lights was going to be where they would race, the Capes put down a deposit for two brand new IL-15 chassis that they will take possession of in September. The brothers will use the Indy Lights program as a stepping stone to start looking at the IndyCar Series once the new 2.4L engine formula starts racing.
“It all depends on when [IndyCar] does all the changes and that,” said Dominic Cape when asked about an IndyCar time table. “So, you know, we’ll probably wait and see and then give that a year to shake out whatever things they got to sort out, and then we’ll probably look at going in then.”
There is a decently large cost differential between USF2000 and Indy Lights. A full season in USF2000 is around $350,000-$400,000 while an Indy Lights deal with testing is around $1.1-$1.2 million. That difference in cost is not a deterrent for the brothers because Indy Lights is where drivers want to be if they’re seeking a future in IndyCar.
At the shop, the Capes have almost everything they need in terms of tools and equipment already in place for the move up to Indy Lights. The brothers might need to purchase some small bits of precision tooling, but the rest of their equipment will transfer over to running the Indy Lights cars.
Except for the cars themselves, the Capes’ biggest expense ahead of next season might actually be outfitting the entire team with the new clothing that Indy Lights will require the mechanics to wear. The crew will be kept almost entirely intact, the majority of whom have been with the Capes for many years and their workloads will decrease a bit as the team transitions from a four car effort to two cars, putting more mechanics on each car.
The team has competed in USF2000 dating back to the early 1990s, delivering championships for drivers such as JR Hildebrand, Matthew Brabham, Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood. The Capes will hold themselves to the same standards that have guided their team throughout the years, but knowing how different Indy Lights is compared to USF2000, the brothers are managing their expectations.
“I think competing for podiums, hopefully wins, stuff like that in our first year,” Nicholas Cape said of their goals. “I mean, when we first ran the Andersen program, we got podiums in our first year; second year we were leading the championship going into the Freedom 100 with JR Hildebrand and then some things happened.”
“But I think for us moving into it now, I think hopefully fighting for podiums in our first year, that would be good.”
The team was based in St. Petersburg, Florida since 2001 and was able to complete their move to Brownsburg in late 2019 after the annual post-season Chris Griffis Memorial Test thanks to some help from former business partners in Wayne Taylor Racing. The team had met with Indiana state government representatives and Hendricks County officials to help facilitate the move into what is a large hub for open-wheel racing in America.