IRL: IndyCar Series welcomes new and familiar faces

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 - Fans might want to avail themselves to race programs for the start to the 2004 season because of the number of new faces and familiar faces in new places in the IRL IndyCar® Series that kicks off with open...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 - Fans might want to avail themselves to race programs for the start to the 2004 season because of the number of new faces and familiar faces in new places in the IRL IndyCar® Series that kicks off with open testing Jan. 27-28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Toyota Indy 300, the first of 16 races, is Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series' 2003 champion Mark Taylor and Menards Infiniti Pro Series veteran Ed Carpenter will drive in the IndyCar Series full time this year, while Kosuke Matsuura and Darren Manning are newcomers to the IRL. Bryan Herta rejoins Andretti Green Racing in a full-time capacity, and Alex Barron rejoins Red Bull Cheever Racing. Buddy Rice, who had a number of rides in 2003, will be the substitute driver until Kenny Brack completes his rehabilitation from injuries suffered in the season finale in October.

Pennzoil Panther Racing saw two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. switch to Marlboro Team Penske, but it gained Tomas Scheckter from Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

"Each year there are more new faces coming into the league," said Carpenter, who has joined Red Bull Cheever Racing. "I'm one of these new faces in the IRL, and also a new face for Red Bull Cheever Racing. I think it's great to see people given new opportunities to really show their talent. The addition of new drivers helps raise the level of competition and add depth to the field. It's great for the league as a whole."

A breakdown of driver movement in the off-season (so far): Ed Carpenter (Red Bull Cheever Racing): Will drive a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone package. Made three IndyCar Series starts with PDM Racing in 2003, with best finish 13th at Chicagoland and Fontana. Finished third in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series' standings on the strength of one victory and seven other top-five finishes. Age: Turns 23 on March 3.

Mark Taylor (Pennzoil Panther Racing): Will drive a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone package. Won 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship with record seven victories. "It's a different series," Taylor said. "It's going to be a lot more challenging, I think. Hopefully, it will be a smooth transition, but it's going to be -- it's going to be a different ballgame, as it were." Age: 26.

Kosuke Matsuura (Super Aguri Fernandez Racing): Will drive a Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone package. Turned his first laps in an IndyCar Series car on Nov. 12, 2003, in Phoenix. Finished third in the 2003 Formula Renault V6 Eurocup standings and second in the 2002 German Formula 3 competition. "It has been my dream to race in a top category and also compete in the United States," said Matsuura, a native of Aichi, Japan. Age: 24.

Darren Manning (Target Chip Ganassi Racing): Will drive a Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone package. Announced as driver of Target Chip Ganassi Racing's second car on Nov. 5, 2003. "I am so passionate about racing and things, so hopefully that will come across in whatever I do throughout this year," he said. "And hopefully there will be lots of opportunities for me to shine on track as well, which is where hopefully I can prove myself best." Finished ninth in CART point standings in 2003. Age: 28.

Bryan Herta (Andretti Green Racing): Will drive a Dallara/Honda/Firestone package. In his third start as substitute for the injured Dario Franchitti with Andretti Green Racing in 2003, he recorded first career IndyCar Series victory. Made 11 starts for the team last season, and will be one of four drivers this year. Age: 33.

Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske): Will drive a Dallara/Toyota/Firestone package. The 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion makes the move from Pennzoil Panther Racing. Recorded three victories and seven top-five finishes in 16 races on the way to a fifth-place finish in points last season. Age: 24.

Tomas Scheckter (Pennzoil Panther Racing): Will drive a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone package. Makes move from Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Finished a career-best seventh in points in 2003, with five top-finishes. Started 12th and finished fourth at the 87th Indianapolis 500, leading a field-best 67 laps. Age: 23.

Alex Barron (Red Bull Cheever Racing): Will drive a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone package. Recorded second IndyCar Series victory in 2003 at Michigan while driving for Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing. Also drove for Marlboro Team Penske in Japan, and competed for Red Bull Cheever Racing in the final three events of the season. Age: 33.

Buddy Rice (Team Rahal): Will drive a Dallara/Honda/Firestone package. Will be the substitute driver until Kenny Brack is recovered from injuries suffered in 2003 season finale at Texas. Competed in 13 races for Red Bull Cheever Racing last season. Recorded four top-10 finishes. "My main objective right now with everything that Team Rahal has done for me in the past right now is to make sure that the No. 15 Pioneer Argent car is up front all the time," Rice said. "With the excellent Honda power we have and the new G Force chassis, I think we'll have a chance of running up front consistently." Age: Turns 28 on Jan. 31. <pre> 2004 IRL IndyCar Series teams (As of Jan. 20) Driver Entrant C/E/T Greg Ray Access Motorsports G/H/F A.J. Foyt IV A.J. Foyt Enterprises D/T/F Dario Franchitti Andretti Green Racing D/H/F Bryan Herta Andretti Green Racing D/H/F Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing D/H/F Dan Wheldon Andretti Green Racing D/H/F Robbie Buhl Dreyer & Reinbold Racing D/C/F Scott Sharp Kelley Racing D/T/F Helio Castroneves Marlboro Team Penske D/T/F Sam Hornish Jr Marlboro Team Penske D/T/F Tora Tagaki Mo Nunn Racing G/T/F Tomas Scheckter Pennzoil Panther Racing D/C/F Mark Taylor Pennzoil Panther Racing D/C/F Kosuke Matsuura Super Aguri Fernandez RacingD/H/F Alex Barron Red Bull Cheever Racing D/C/F Ed Carpenter Red Bull Cheever Racing D/C/F Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing G/T/F Darren Manning Target Chip Ganassi Racing G/T/F Buddy Rice * Team Rahal D/H/F

*-- Substitute driver for Kenny Brack

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Darren Manning , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Mo Nunn , Sam Hornis
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing