Roger Bailey has one of the toughest jobs in motorsports right now - and it's his second time 'round with this type of gig. Bailey, who broke into the business building chassis and has worked with every major team and/or series in the racing...
Roger Bailey has one of the toughest jobs in motorsports right now - and it's his second time 'round with this type of gig. Bailey, who broke into the business building chassis and has worked with every major team and/or series in the racing world, is the executive director of the Indy Racing League's Menards Infiniti Pro Series, a step-up campaign for drivers aspiring to the ultimate IndyCar Series.
The economy has stopped the IPS from becoming a quick-rising star, but so has the dichotomous nature of racing in the United States. As Bailey explains it, we've just got too many choices. "If you have a Formula 3, Formula 2 and Formula 1, then you know what direction you're going. But here we have Toyota Atlantic, we have Infiniti Pro Series and now BMW is coming in with its own formula.
"There are simply too many choices." Now that's a refrain we've heard more than once! "We need one central division," Bailey intones.
There is a problem and it's not limited to the United States. In Europe, it seems that every car maker has its own racing series of different levels, and there just isn't enough interest to go around.
How to change it? There's the million dollar question. For Bailey the course is set with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series; he's bringing new young drivers to oval racing and helping them get with the right teams to elevate their American racing careers.
"Look at Paul Dana," he said. "The guy is doing so much better now that he's affiliated with Ron Hemelgarn." Dana sat on pole for the first race of 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Last weekend in Phoenix he couldn't do anything with his car for time trials but came through the field from 10th to fifth, earning the Pro Series' "hard charger" award.
"I want to test Ron's Indy car a lot this fall," Dana said eyes wide open. He'd like to move up the way Ed Carpenter has, doing a few races at the end of the year to show his worth and catch on for 2005.
Roger Bailey has plenty of guys like Dana, who came up through karts and sports cars driving in his all-oval series. Thiago Medeiros, who blasted the field in Phoenix by a full lap last Saturday in the IPS' first race without caution, came from F3 in Brazil, but knows there are only so many seats in his country's first love (Formula One) and he is happy to have opportunity here. His English gets better by the minute; Thiago has settled in Indy.
The Infiniti Pro Series expects to work some road courses into its schedule along with the IndyCar Series next year. "We'll do what IndyCar does and we've got differentials, suspension changes being made right now," Bailey said. "We'll test the new Dallara components in August." He thinks we'll "double our driver base with road racing."
That would be good news for guys like Dana, Medeiros, Phil Giebler, Arie Luyendyk Jr. among others. Bailey feels he's seen quite a few of his drivers mature this year. The IPS is only now about to enter its third full year of competition and some drivers have made the leap from the Pro Series to Indy cars. The two champions: A.J. Foyt IV and Mark Taylor are graduates as is Carpenter, all three with full-time good rides in the League.
One of the biggest surprises Bailey has had about his job is the lack of interest from the drivers he thought would clamor to use IPS to move to Indy cars. "We've had very little interest from the USAC guys." The driver pool is not what he thought t would be.
At this time, Bailey has 17 cars and drivers committed for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 22nd. "I'd like to see 22 at Indy this year," Bailey mused. "I think the bar has been raised with some of the new kids we've had coming in. Certainly Leo Maia," who came from the Barber Dodge Pro Series as its 2003 champion and finished third in his first race at Phoenix.
Bailey thinks the teams are working on a pretty level playing field these days. "With a series like this, we've got rid of the variables," leaving the competition to the teams and drivers.