INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 31, 2003 -- Panther Racing has named 2003 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Mark Taylor as the driver of the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for the 2004 IRL IndyCara Series. "I am ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 31, 2003 -- Panther Racing has named 2003 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Mark Taylor as the driver of the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for the 2004 IRL IndyCara Series.
"I am delighted to have been selected to driver for Panther Racing and Menards/Johns Manville," Taylor said. "This is a great opportunity for me and I would like to thank John Menard and everyone at Panther Racing for making this possible. When the 2003 season started, I wasn't sure what to expect in oval racing. As it turns out, it is fantastic racing, a great product for the fans, and I knew quickly that I wanted my career to lead to the IndyCar Series.
Taylor's 2003 championship effort included a record seven wins and nine top-five finishes over the 12 races on the Menards Infiniti Pro Series schedule. This represents the second time in the two-year history of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series for the champion to have graduated up to the IndyCar Series. AJ Foyt IV made the transition after winning the 2002 championship.
"The Menards Infiniti Pro Series is designed to be the stepping stone series in the IRL," said John Menard, co-owner of Panther Racing. "As the 2003 series champion, it is a natural that Mark progress into the IndyCar Series. It is even more fitting that Mark competes in 2004 with Menards and Johns Manville colors."
Taylor had his initial IndyCar Series testing opportunity with Panther Racing in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Texas Motor Speedway in early October.
"Mark ran a full day of testing for us at Texas Motor Speedway and was turning very competitive laps almost immediately," John Barnes, co-owner of Panther Racing said. "He has proven throughout his career that he knows how to find victory lane, and we are looking forward to watching him grow into a solid IndyCar Series competitor."
Taylor joins teammate Tomas Scheckter at Panther Racing. Scheckter was named on Oct. 11 as the driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for 2004.
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 Feb. 29, 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series season begins Feb. 29, 2004 with the Homestead-Miami 100 at HMS.