IPS: Kansas: New series debut preview

New era begins with Infiniti Pro Series debut at Kansas. KANSAS CITY, Kan., Tuesday, July 2, 2002 -- The dream is about to become a reality. Indy Racing League President and CEO Tony George and other league officials have wanted to create a ...

New era begins with Infiniti Pro Series debut at Kansas.

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Tuesday, July 2, 2002 -- The dream is about to become a reality.

Indy Racing League President and CEO Tony George and other league officials have wanted to create a development series for the Indy Racing League for some time. After a long planning period, George and other IRL officials announced the formation of the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series during a press conference Aug. 31, 2001, at Chicagoland Speedway.

Now, just 310 days and about 400 miles away, the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series will start at the inaugural event during the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 7 at Kansas Speedway. The race starts at 10:10 a.m. (CDT) on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas.

ESPN2 will televise the race at 6 p.m. (EDT) July 25.

The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series consists of seven races beginning with this event through the season finale Sept. 14 at Texas Motor Speedway. Drivers will race in 100-mile "sprints" at the same track and on the same day as Indy Racing League events except for the Texas race, which will be conducted the day before the IRL's season-ending Chevy 500. Drivers will compete for a $100,000 purse at each Infiniti Pro Series race.

Infiniti Q45 engines will power new Dallara Automobili chassis built for the series, with Firestone Firehawk tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines will produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis.

The series is providing a clear road to the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500, breeding future IRL and Indy 500 stars.

But the Infiniti Pro Series has plenty of marquee value in its driver lineup even before the green flag flies to start the first race.

After all, how many open-wheel series have drivers named Foyt and Luyendyk, an Indianapolis 500 veteran and a worldwide television and movie star on its initial driver roster?

A.J. Foyt IV, the 18-year-old grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, will drive the Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone entry fielded by his grandfather's IRL operation. Young Foyt's car will carry the No. 14 that his grandfather made famous at Indianapolis.

Arie Luyendyk Jr., the 20-year-old son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, will start his path to the IRL and Indianapolis in the No. 5 Luyendyk Racing entry.

2001 Indianapolis 500 starter Cory Witherill will drive the No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone fielded by Hemelgarn 91 Johnson Motorsports, co-owned by 2000 Indy Racing League champion entrant Ron Hemelgarn.

Witherill, a Navajo, is the only full-blooded Native American in professional open-wheel racing. He teams with short-track ace Aaron Fike on the Hemelgarn 91 Johnson team.

Jason Priestley, who played Brandon Walsh in the worldwide television hit "Beverly Hills 90210," will make his open-wheel racing debut in the No. 7 HomeMed Pharmacy entry fielded by standout IRL team Kelley Racing. Priestley is a veteran sports-car racer.

There's plenty of name recognition among Infiniti Pro Series teams, too. Sinden Racing Service, which will field an entry for USAC short-track standout Ed Carpenter, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fielding an entry for G.J. Mennen, join A.J. Foyt Racing, Hemelgarn Racing and Kelley Racing as IRL teams fielding or co-fielding an Infiniti Pro Series entry.

Bowes Seal Fast Racing, a team with deep roots in Indy-style racing, is fielding cars for Mike Koss and Matthew Halliday. Bowes Seal Fast has participated in the Indianapolis 500 since 1930. Legendary drivers who have competed in Bowes Seal Fast Indy-style cars include A.J. Foyt, Louis Meyer, Troy Ruttman and Jackie Stewart.

Brian Stewart Racing, which has earned 31 wins, 27 pole positions and two series championships in open-wheel developmental series, is fielding a car for Marty Roth.

The Infiniti Pro Series also will show the versatility of two of its younger competitors, Fike and Ed Carpenter.

Both Fike, 19, and Carpenter, 21, are standouts in USAC open-wheel racing and plan to stay loyal to their short-track roots while preparing themselves for a career in the IRL. Both drivers will encounter some interesting "double duty" this season, starting with this weekend.

Fike will drive the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing entry in the Infiniti Pro Series race the morning of July 7 and then fly to Wisconsin to race in the USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series race that evening at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis.

Carpenter will drive in the USAC Sprint Car race July 5 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and then return to Kansas for Infiniti Pro Series qualifying July 6 and the race July 7 in his No. 2 Menards/Jack K. Elrod Co./Futaba/Delphi Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

AMERISTAR CASINO INDY 200 INFINITI PRO SERIES NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series race starts at 10:10 a.m. (CDT) Sunday, July 7. Pole qualifying starts at 2:15 p.m. (CDT) July 6.

Practice sessions start at 9:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (CDT) July 5, and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. July 6.

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On the air: The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 Infiniti Pro Series event will be televised at 6 p.m. (EDT) July 25 on ESPN2.

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Tickets: Tickets for the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series race July 7 and qualifying on July 6 are sold out. Tickets for practice July 5 are available now by calling the Kansas Speedway ticket office at (913) 328-7223 or online at www.kansasspeedway.com.

-irl/ips-

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Cory Witherill , A.J. Foyt IV , Jackie Stewart , Matthew Halliday , Sam Schmidt , Marty Roth , Aaron Fike , Jason Priestley , Mike Koss , G.J. Mennen , Tony George , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter , Arie Luyendyk Jr.