It's test time for drivers hoping to contest the 2004 Menards/IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship. And with the weather turning to chill in the northern part of the US, heading south - or in this case west - is the best way to look at new ...
It's test time for drivers hoping to contest the 2004 Menards/IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship. And with the weather turning to chill in the northern part of the US, heading south - or in this case west - is the best way to look at new talent.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports chose to test three drivers at the newly- reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway mile oval over the last two days: series veterans Thiago Medeiros, Brad Pollard and road-race specialist Larry Mason came to the Avondale mile to hone their skills in Schmidt's Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone racers.
Medeiros, winner of the IPS season closer dreamerscandles.com 100 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 11th noted, "Sam invited me to do the test and it was a good opportunity to get more track time in the Pro Series car. I'm happy to be driving and developing the Firestone tires and my performance, too.
The tall Brazilian, who ran as a rookie for Genoa Racing in last year's 12 events finished in fourth for the season, took top 10 results ten times and garnered a single pole position, the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I'm still working to get sponsorship for next season," Medeiros allowed. "I'm doing everything to be in the Infiniti Pro Series in 2004. I want to be in the series next year," he declared.
Thiago Medeiros recorded [unofficial] times in a series-blasting low 23- second range. 2003 champion Mark Taylor set pole at the PIR oval for March's Phoenix 100 with a fast lap of 24.0141 seconds (149.912mph).
Veteran road racer Mason had different goals in the two-day test: "My goal going in was to be smooth and consistent. It went really well. My very first time on an oval was a real eye-opening experience. It was awesome," Mason said. "I appreciate Sam giving me the opportunity."
The Phoenix mile oval has undergone integral changes since the Menards/IRL Infiniti Pro Series raced there last March. The cross-over at turn 2 has been removed and the wall stretched out about half a car-length. Turn 4 now houses a tunnel that will ease participants' entry and exit to the infield. Instead of having to wait between sessions to enter or exit the inside of the track, participants can now use the tunnel for easy ingress/egress.
Team owner Sam Schmidt acknowledged his team is preparing for a strong 2004 season and will hold additional tests for viable candidates. "We're evaluating our options for 2004," Schmidt said. "Recognizing that Phoenix is one of the more technical and difficult tracks we race on, it gives us a chance to gather information and data that will help us be more competitive next year."
The 12-race Menards/IRL Infiniti Pro Series gets underway on Leap Day, February 29th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.