IRL: AJ Foyt Racing sign sponsors, Hattori

FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Feb. 3, 2003 -- Conseco, one of America's leading insurance, investment and lending companies, will sponsor the car driven by rookie A.J. Foyt IV in the IRL IndyCar Series in 2003, team owner A.J. Foyt announced Feb.

FONTANA, Calif., Monday, Feb. 3, 2003 -- Conseco, one of America's leading insurance, investment and lending companies, will sponsor the car driven by rookie A.J. Foyt IV in the IRL IndyCar Series in 2003, team owner A.J. Foyt announced Feb. 3.

Foyt also revealed that IndyCar Series veteran Shigeaki Hattori will be the younger Foyt's teammate for the first four races of the season in an EPSON-sponsored car.

A.J. Foyt IV, 18, climbs to the IRL IndyCar Series after winning the inaugural IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship in 2002. He will drive the No. 14 Conseco Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone owned by his grandfather, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt.

"I think it is a great opportunity to come in my freshman year and be with such a great team, with my grandfather, and a great sponsor like Conseco and a great crew," Foyt IV said. "I think we should do well this year. All I have to do is do my job. I think the pressure is more this year than last year. Last year there was no real pressure to go out there and win, but this year I feel the pressure to perform because I did so well last year. People expect me to come in and do well this year."

Foyt won four of seven starts and earned three poles in the Infiniti Pro Series.

"The Infiniti Pro Series was a big help," Foyt said. "I'm further ahead than I was before the Pro Series. It is a good thing for all of the young drivers to go there before coming to the IndyCar Series. I know it helped me a lot."

Conseco, based in Indianapolis, has been a primary or associate sponsor on Foyt's Indy Racing League entries since the league's inaugural year, 1996.

"Conseco and I have been partners for many years, and the first year we tied for the championship with Scott Sharp," Foyt said. "It's great to have them back because they've been such a great sponsor through the years.

"A.J IV is making a big step right here. I told him, this is probably the worst year you could come in with guys like Kenny Brack, who drove for me, and Michael Andretti and all of them (coming into the series). We've got Shigeaki here in the other car. I look for a nice performance out of both of these boys. Shiggy's got a little more experience than pee-wee (A.J. IV) over here, but pee-wee's got to step up."

Hattori, 39, a native of Japan who lives in Hermosa Beach, Calif., will drive the No. 5 EPSON Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. He has made 23 career IRL IndyCar Series starts, with 11 top-10 finishes and a best finish of sixth.

"I came to the U.S. in 1995," Hattori said. "A.J. is my hero. He is really famous, the most famous auto racer in the U.S. I'm really excited to be with A.J.

"He is also a big name in Japan. Everybody knows the name A.J. Foyt. I'm so happy and so excited right now."

The IndyCar Series season starts with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. For ticket information for the season opener at Homestead, call (305) 230-RACE or visit www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Shigeaki Hattori , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Kenny Brack , A.J. Foyt