IRL: IRL spurns Penske, chooses MK chassis for 2003

In a surprise announcement at the Indianapolis 500 today, Indy Racing League revealed its choice of three authorized chassis manufacturers for the 2003-2005 IRL seasons. The first two choices were what most observers expected, being the ...

In a surprise announcement at the Indianapolis 500 today, Indy Racing League revealed its choice of three authorized chassis manufacturers for the 2003-2005 IRL seasons.

The first two choices were what most observers expected, being the two current chassis suppliers for the series: Italian chassis builder Dallara, and G Force, which has moved its operations from the UK to owner Don Panoz' Atlanta base.

The series earlier announced that IRL entrant and longtime chassis builder, Penske Racing would not be one of the approved ones.

Conventional wisdom suggested that IRL might select an established builder, such as Lola, the currently dominant CART chassis, or even a smaller builder like March or Swift with experience in open-wheel racing. However, the choice fell upon newcomer MK Racing -- a stranger to open-wheel chassis.

"MK Racing has made the same commitment that Dallara and G Force did in 1996," said Tony George, CEO of IRL and the Indianapolis Speedway. "Our competitors and fans will benefit from the competition of these three manufacturers."

The three manufacturers will be competing for the teams' interest along with four engine suppliers, with Honda having signed up for the series -- partnering with veteran engine supplier Ilmor -- in a shock announcement earlier this week.

MK Racing is the racing operation of Michael Kranefuss, with Ken Anderson in charge of the engineering in the company. MK is based in the heart of NASCAR country, in Concord, NC, not an area traditionally known for open-wheel racing, let alone monocoque chassis development.

Kranefuss first made his name as the director of Ford's Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), running its racing operations. He was subsequently a part owner of a successful NASCAR Winston Cup team, but sold his interest to Roger Penske, and the team is now known as Penske Racing.

In 2001, MK Racing ran Elton Sawyer in NASCAR's Busch Grand National series, and Shawna Robinson in selected ARCA events. However, the team shut its doors at the end of the year due to the lack of sponsorship -- only to emerge as an IRL chassis supplier this year.

In the meantime, Kranefuss recruited veteran engineer Anderson, who has a broad range of experience -- from working on the design of the Ligier JS33 and Onyx ORE1 Formula 1 cars, to leading the design of the original G-Force IRL chassis, to race engineering in CART and IRL for Arciero-Wells, Robby Gordon and John Menard.

Now Kranefuss has a challenge different from chasing sponsors: he needs to, instead, build an engineering team in time to develop a competitive 2003 chassis, and, at the same time, convince team owners to commit to a chassis from a company that is new to the game.

That's a tall order, but Kranefuss has come through before. The truth will be known in eight months' time: how many MK chassis will be on the grid -- and in which positions.

For more information, please see:
IRL chassis manufacturers announced
Honda announced as 2003 engine supplier
Honda press conference

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Shawna Robinson , Elton Sawyer , Don Panoz , Tony George , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske