INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 15, 2003 -- On a cold April 3, 2002, Ed Carpenter took the very first Infiniti Pro Series car ever built out on the world's most famous racing surface and turned the first laps in a Pro Series car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Just a little more than one year later, Carpenter will be back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a host of other Infiniti Pro Series drivers, taking part in the Infiniti Pro Series open test on Thursday, April 17.
The test will prepare Pro Series drivers and teams for the Freedom 100, which will be run on national Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 17, at IMS. (The Speedway will officially celebrate Armed Forces day on Sunday, May 18, with special ceremonies.) The 40-lap race will see the green flag at 2 p.m. local time.
The Freedom 100 will mark the first time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that another automobile race will share the famed 2.5-mile oval with the Indianapolis 500 during the month of May.
"(The test) is going to be neat," said Carpenter, who will drive the No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing car. "I had the experience to take the first initial shakedown, but we had on the short-track wing setup. We didn't have all the right gears, and we were just shaking it down, so we didn't get a chance to get up to high speed."
Roger Bailey, executive director for the Infiniti Pro Series, is excited about the experience the drivers will gain testing at IMS.
"I think if you look at the big picture, this is a training ground for the IndyCar Series at the venues they participate at," Bailey said. "Well, none of the venues are as important as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If we're giving these drivers a chance to learn at a lesser speed and with a greater learning period, then nothing is probably more important than getting to run at the place that is their ultimate goal."
Mark Taylor, driver of the No. 4 Fulmar/Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, will lead an impressive lineup of young and talented drivers expected to participate in the Infiniti Pro Series open test. Taylor has won the first two races of the season and has a 104-80 lead in the points standings over fellow Pro Series rookie Thiago Medeiros, driver of the No. 36 Genoa Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Medeiros is scheduled to participate as well.
Other drivers expected to take part in the IMS open test include:
*Brandon Erwin, driver of the No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, who is third in points. Erwin has experience on the famous 2.5-mile oval, having practiced for the 2001 Indianapolis 500. He did not qualify for the race.
*Cory Witherill, driver of the No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone and winner of the 2002 Pro Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. Witherill has also competed in the Indianapolis 500, qualifying 31st and finishing 19th in 2001.
*Aaron Fike, who is Witherill's teammate and winner of the 2002 Infiniti Pro Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. He will drive the No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Arie Luyendyk Jr., driver of the No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone and son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk.
*Ronnie Johncox, driver of the No. 8 REV 1 Racing Special Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Johncox practiced in an IRL IndyCar Series car at the Speedway in 2000.
*Matt Beardsley, driver of the No. 12 Alpine Bank/Old Republic Land Title Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Marty Roth, driver of the No. 3 Roth/Stewart Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Gary Peterson, driver of the No. 27 AFS Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Infiniti Pro Series rookies scheduled to participate include:
*Jeff Simmons, who pilots the No. 20 Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Paul Dana, driver of the No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Jonathan Urlin, driver of the No. 33 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
*Tom Wood, driver of the No. 9 Super 8 Motels/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.