IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2004-06-29

Today's IRL headlines 1. Panther Racing, Taylor Part Company 2. Centrix To Sponsor Rahal Letterman Racing For Remainder Of 2004 3. Pollard, Xbox Move to Sam Schmidt Motorsports 1. Panther Racing, Taylor Part Company: Panther Racing and IRL ...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Panther Racing, Taylor Part Company
2. Centrix To Sponsor Rahal Letterman Racing For Remainder Of 2004
3. Pollard, Xbox Move to Sam Schmidt Motorsports

1. Panther Racing, Taylor Part Company: Panther Racing and IRL IndyCar® Series rookie Mark Taylor announced June 29 that they will seek other options for the remainder of the season, effective this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Taylor, the 2003 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion, has competed in the No. 2 Panther Racing Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entry for the first six races of the season with a best finish of 12th (March 21 at Phoenix) and a best starting position of third (June 25 at Richmond).

Panther Racing did not announce a driver for the July 4 Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.

"Mark Taylor has done everything we have asked him to do over the past 18 months he has been part of the Panther Racing family," team co-owner John Barnes said. "However, due to the many pressures of professional auto racing, it is in everyone's best interest that we look in different directions."

Team co-owner Gary Pedigo echoed Barnes' sentiments regarding Taylor, who set virtually every record in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2003, including seven victories in 11 starts.

"The IndyCar Series has become one of the toughest championships a driver can contest, and the rules limiting team testing have made the learning curve very, very steep for a rookie in this series," Pedigo said. "Mark has done an outstanding job of getting the car up front in several races and has turned some very quick laps in a short amount of time. Mark is a very bright, personable and talented young driver and we wish him the best in his future endeavors."

2. Centrix To Sponsor Rahal Letterman Racing Car For Remainder Of 2004: Centrix Financial will remain the primary sponsor of Rahal Letterman Racing's No. 17 Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone entry for the rest of the 2004 season.

"We are very pleased to announce the extension of our partnership with Bob Sutton and CENTRIX Financial for our No. 17 car," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "Bob and his staff are new to IndyCar (Series) racing but not to motorsports, and they believe our association is important to the company's marketing objectives. We're very excited to have them along for the entire season. We hope to put them in the winner's circle."

Rahal and David Letterman announced the extension of the sponsorship, which began at the Indianapolis 500 in May, on June 24, as well as confirming Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice as the driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone entry for the remainder of the season.

Vitor Meira, who has driven the No. 17 entry since the Indy Japan 300 in April, will remain with the team until Kenny Brack is ready to return to the cockpit.

Brack, the 1999 Indy 500 winner and 1998 IndyCar Series champion, returned to the driver's seat on June 5 for the first time since his near fatal crash last October at Texas Motor Speedway when he tested for three hours at Richmond International Raceway and recorded times under the 16-second mark.

However, despite his impressive test, Brack admitted he needs more rehabilitation on his body to compete on a regular basis in the IndyCar Series.

"It has been an exciting couple of months for our team," Rahal said. "Dating back to the start of the month of May and including Buddy's thrilling victory at Indianapolis and Vitor's great drives. Of all the great moments and recent memories, the one that stands out for Dave and myself was when Kenny climbed back into an IndyCar (Series car). Kenny's recovery is nothing short of a miracle, considering the severity of the incident. While mentally he is ready to race, physically Kenny feels he needs more time to prepare for the rigors of the sport. Kenny has consistently said throughout this process that he wouldn't return to competitive racing until he felt he was 100 percent."

3. Pollard, Xbox Move To Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Brad Pollard will drive the No. 64 XBOX entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series beginning with the Aventis Racing for Kids 100 on July 3 at Kansas Speedway.

Pollard competed in the final two events of the 2003 season with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, but began this season driving for Kenn Hardley Racing. He finished fifth at Homestead-Miami and recorded 11th-place finishes at Phoenix and Indianapolis.

The relationship with Sam Schmidt Motorsports will allow Pollard to team with Thiago Medeiros and Arie Luyendyk Jr. who rank first and third, respectively, in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series points standings.

"Kenn Hardley runs a great organization with quality people and was a great owner to work with and drive for," Pollard said. "As I learn at this new level, I struggled to communicate exactly how I needed the car to be setup to go fast. "I tested with Sam Schmidt Motorsports last year, and had a great working chemistry with his team. We approached Sam and he agreed to run me the remainder of this year and to help me learn to better communicate with the team. I'm also very excited about the opportunity to drive with guys like Thiago (Medeiros) and Arie (Luyendyk Jr.), just as I was to drive with Billy Roe."

Pollard, who was the 2002 Southwest Formula Mazda Rookie of the Year, will also draw upon Schmidt's experience as a former driver and owner in the IRL IndyCar Series® as he strives for that level.

"Sam will be a tremendous resource as I learn to communicate with the team and can provide a smooth transition for me when I make the step up to the IndyCar Series," Pollard said.

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) July 4 at Kansas Speedway. The race broadcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Aventis Racing for Kids 100 will take place July 3 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 on a tape-delayed basis at 7:30 p.m.on July 4.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Billy Roe , Sam Schmidt , Buddy Rice , Brad Pollard , John Barnes , Thiago Medeiros , Vitor Meira , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Panther Racing