INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2001 - 2000 Indy Racing League championship team owner Ron Hemelgarn announced plans for his Indianapolis-based Hemelgarn Racing to field an entry for the 2002 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series. Hemelgarn has requested the No. 91 for his Infiniti Pro Series car - the same number on his title-winning Northern Light Series car driven by 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier. Hemelgarn's team will work from a shop on the grounds of his Indy Racing League team. He will partner with Roger Johnson, who fields a United States Auto Club Silver Crown car. "I'm excited about doing it," Hemelgarn said. "It is an opportunity to bring a young driver into the series. It is also an opportunity for Roger Johnson to move into the Indy Racing League and get his feet wet." Hemelgarn indicated that a driver and sponsor for the team would be announced in early 2002. The Infiniti Pro Series will debut on July 8, 2002, at Kansas Speedway. "The Pro Series will produce future champions," Hemelgarn said. "It is a great opportunity for guys or girls to move into a rear-engine chassis before the IRL. It is a great steppingstone that we have been lacking in the Indy Racing League. We are going to worry about that (a driver) after the first of the year. "By Roger (Johnson) getting involved, it creates another car owner (in the IRL). This is a great steppingstone for many car owners, also. It's not only for drivers, but it's also an affordable steppingstone for car owners. So, I think it's two-fold." The Kansas race will be the first of seven anticipated Infiniti Pro Series events in 2002. Races will take place at the same track and on the same day as Indy Racing Northern Light Series events, with every Infiniti Pro Series race distance set at 100 miles. The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series was created on the same founding principles as the Indy Racing League. Infiniti Q45 engines will power new Dallara Automobili chassis built for the series, with Firestone tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines will produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis, providing an ideal training ground for the 650-horsepower, single-seat winged cars of the Northern Light Series.

-irl/ips-