Ever since its inception and first race in July of 2002, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series has given drivers the opportunity to race on the same circuits as the IndyCar Series and discover if they've got the talent to move up to the premier Indy ...
Ever since its inception and first race in July of 2002, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series has given drivers the opportunity to race on the same circuits as the IndyCar Series and discover if they've got the talent to move up to the premier Indy Racing League series. Champions A.J. Foyt IV (2002) and last year's titleholder Mark Taylor both made the move, as has standout Ed Carpenter.
Now Canadian Marty Roth, 45, is looking to join his brethren. Roth, who has started 13 IPS races over the past two seasons announced yesterday that he will attempt the Brickyard Double this May - he intends to race in the Menards IPS series Freedom 100 and the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. With success in the latter, Roth would likely continue with the Indy cars to the close of the 2004 campaign.
He'll be driving a #25 Roth Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entry as he goes to the Rookie Orientation Program required of all first-time Indy 500 drivers, yet expects to have a leg up on others as he'll get some track time with his IPS car even before ROP takes place. "I'm looking forward to the open test for the Freedom 100; it will give me a jump on ROP and help get me used to the big cars" on the 2.5-mile Brickyard track.
"The goal from the start of joining the Menards Infiniti Pro Series was to move up," the Toronto resident noted. Despite an absence from the racing scene from 1990 to 2002, Roth feels he's ready for the jump. "The Infiniti Pro Series has provided a great learning experience," Roth said. "We're looking to move up just like a lot of great drivers and teams have already done."
There's a 35mph difference between the IPS and Indy cars, but Roth doesn't think it'll be that big a deal. He did pass his rookie test for IRL competition during a test at Kentucky Speedway in 2002 and while "the speed came easily at Kentucky in my rookie test, that was with higher banks than we've got at Indianapolis. I think getting used to the track should be easy," even though he hasn't yet driven at Indy. Roth had an accident in the second Infiniti Pro Series race in Phoenix last season and sat out the subsequent four events, returning at Michigan in July.
Marty Roth purchased the IPS rolling stock and equipment used by Panther Racing to propel Mark Taylor to his 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship. He also picked up the services of former PacWest Racing Group stalwarts Mark Moore, who has become his team manager and chief mechanic Butch Winkle. The Canadian thinks his hand picked crew will be of great value once he gets to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"My team members came from PacWest Racing and have been in IPS, bounced around IRL and landed here with me. Butch was the first guy I hired and working with these guys has been great. We jelled immediately and that made moving up easier because they'd already been there."
As with most drivers, "Competing in the Indianapolis 500 has always been a passion for me," more than a business decision. Roth, who began his career on two wheels, likens driving at Indy to competing in Superbikes at Daytona International Speedway. "When I got on that track I remember I laughed in my helmet. It was a fantastic experience and one I never forgot. I expect at my first rookie test on the Indy oval I'll be doing the same thing."
Roth started racing bikes when he was 16 and graduated to cars with Brian Stewart Racing - a Menards Infiniti Pro Series entrant - in 1987, at age 27. He moved along to Indy Lights competition a year later and stayed with that series until the close of the 1990 season, when a waning real estate market forced him to re-examine his priorities and get out of racing.
"I've been trying to step up to big cars for quite a while," Roth revealed. "I would get shot down, then come back up and now I think I'm going in the right direction. I know the whole show at Indy will be quite a distraction but my job is to make the fastest car I can" for the 500.
"There's nothing like Indy," he explained. "I've been there a few times and the energy, with half a million people in the stands had me covered in goose bumps. When we get there in May my job will be to set up the car and go racing." Roth will attempt to let all those distractions fade away.
Roth Racing's entry for the Indy 500 on May 30th is the third received by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to date. Super Aguri Fernandez Racing has entered two cars for rookie Kosuke Matsuura and Fernandez Racing has entered two for team co-owner Adrian Fernandez. Of course, it's one thing to enter the most famous race in the world; now Marty Roth has to find the speed to make the famed field of 33 come race day.