JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003 -- Menard Inc., a Midwest chain of home-improvement stores, has become the co-title sponsor of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series, the official development series of the IRL, league officials announced Sept. 6. The...
JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003 -- Menard Inc., a Midwest chain of home-improvement stores, has become the co-title sponsor of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series, the official development series of the IRL, league officials announced Sept. 6.
The new series name is the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
"The Indy Racing League finds itself with an exciting opportunity as we partner together with two great companies in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
"The combination of Menards, Infiniti and the IRL brings together companies with unique strengths that offer an opportunity to build an exciting business and marketing platform together."
Menard Inc. is family-owned by IRL IndyCara Series team owner John Menard and is based in Eau Claire, Wis. Menard started his business in 1960, selling lumber on weekends while his competition was closed. The company now consists of more than 185 stores.
"We were one of the original teams when the IRL started in 1996," Menard said. "We've supported the Indy Racing League from its inception and are proud to join them now as a marketing partner. We share their vision of open-wheel racing in this country, and by lending our support to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, we are making a commitment to the future of our sport."
Menard began competing in Indy-style racing as a car owner in 1979 at the Indianapolis 500. Since then, the team has won three Indianapolis 500 pole positions and two IndyCar Series Championships (Tony Stewart, 1996-97; Greg Ray, 1999). The team has 10 IndyCar Series race wins and a record 23 MBNA Poles.
The 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series consists of 12 events. Races are The held in conjunction with IRL IndyCar Series events, and all events The are televised on ESPN2 and distributed worldwide through ESPN The International. series was announced on Aug. 31, 2001 at Chicagoland The Speedway and began in July 2002 with seven races the first season. The A.J. Foyt IV won the inaugural championship.
Infiniti Q45 engines power Dallara chassis built for the development series, with Firestone Firehawk tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis, providing an ideal training ground for the 650-horsepower cars of the IndyCar Series.
Drivers include Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, Freedom 100 winner Ed Carpenter, series points leader Mark Taylor and Jeff Simmons, winner of the last two events.