Mazda Road to Indy Ladder Peaks at Friday's Freedom 100

The stepping-stone program has produced 25 of the 33 drivers entered into this weekend's Indianapolis 500. 

Mazda Motorsports

The Mazda Road to Indy highlights the array of competition this Memorial Day Weekend leading up to the 102nd Indianapolis 500. With various support series racing under the MRTI banner, Carb Day will be headlined by the Freedom 100 Indy Lights competition that marks the first oval race of the season for the IndyCar development program. 

Three levels of the MRTI will partake in this weekend's event including the USF2000 Championship, Pro Mazda, and the aforementioned Indy Lights. In total, the 42 competitors strung out across each category are aiming for scholarships that total over $2.6 million—the largest of which is awarded to the Indy Lights season champ. The latter provides the winning driver with a $1 million aid and guarantees them three top-level IndyCar races including the Indy 500 for 2019. 

Friday's Freedom 100 will feature a tight battle at the top for the overall series lead which is currently held by Pato O'Ward. The 19-year-old driver maintains a one-point edge over Colton Herta who won both Indy Lights races earlier in the month of May at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Santiago Urrutia sits in third, a mere six points off the lead. 

O'Ward is also a previous winner in sportscar racing with class victories in both the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring in 2017, competing in the Prototype Challenge category. 

Of the 33 drivers entered into Sunday's Indy 500, 25 are a product of the MRTI ladder including former Freedom 100 winners Jack Howard and Matheus Leist

The primetime Indy Lights contest will be broadcasted live on NBC Sports on Friday, May 25 starting at 12:05 p.m. ET.

Stay tuned for more boots-on-the-ground coverage from The Drive from now until the 102nd running of the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend.