IPS: Infiniti Pro Series to nurture future 500 stars

Indianapolis, IN, May 25 2002 - The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro series continued to march toward its July 7th debut at Kansas Speedway with announcements of new entries and a substantial purse. Roger Bailey, Executive Director of the series, ...

Indianapolis, IN, May 25 2002 - The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro series continued to march toward its July 7th debut at Kansas Speedway with announcements of new entries and a substantial purse.

Roger Bailey, Executive Director of the series, announced a $100,000 purse for each race in the series. The winner will get $25,000, with $14,500 and $10,000 for second and third, respectively. Payoff continues through 20th place, with $1100 for 20th. $1100 is, not by coincidence, the cost of a set of Firestone Firehawk tires.

"I'm very encouraged that we are able to offer this kind of generous prize fund for the first season of the new series," Bailey said. "Moreover, when 20 teams have the opportunity to share the prize money, the entire series benefits."

Costs for a full 12-race season of competiton with a single car team is estimated to be $750,000, which Bailey considers to be conservative. "We say $750,000 for this year (seven races). That includes buying a car. The good thing with this program," he explained, "is cost containment. It's a four year program, using the same car for four years. With seven races this year, amortizing the cost of the car, you'll be able to run a four year race program on about $750,000 (a year)."

He feels that actual costs can be less. "I really do believe that you can run a full blown program for significantly less than $750,000. I like to think that by the time you get to this level you already own a transporter, toolboxes, quick lifts, and all the stuff you need to go racing, so it's just the operational costs." Pointing to cost containment, he added "You just have a couple of gears to change, unlike road racing where you've got to change 5 or 6 sets of gears. We've limited it to three sets of tires per event, and they are a fairly hard compound. We limit the series to eight test days, with two sets for the test dates."

With a spec chassis by Dallara and sealed spec Infiniti engines, the series is a training ground for drivers. "Someone asked me about the lack of young American drivers," Bailey said. "There is no lack of young Americans. There's a lack of a ladder system that allows them to get where they need to be."

"There are plenty of drivers in this country every bit as good as the people who are coming from Brazil. I personally know three of the five guys sitting on the front and second row here tomorrow cane through Indy lights. Every one of those guys came through a go-kart program when they were five years old. They all finished up in Indy Lights, and when they came from Lights they were more than capable of driving cars at this level. They all came through a ladder system."

Bailey is expecting 16 to 18 cars for the inaugural race. There are 16 orders, 12 paid for. With an initial production run of 20 cars, additonal orders can be filled in two weeks.

Bailey was accompanied by four drivers who will be driving in the series. The newest addition, announced today, is A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. The announcement was an unexpected gift on Foyt's 18th birthday.

"It was a real big surprise to me," said Foyt, "because just a couple of days ago I heard that we were going to sell our dirt car, so I kind of wondered what we were going to do. I thought 'I guess I'll just be working on the pit crew for a while.' Today I get the announcement I'll be driving in the Infiniti Pro Series. I'm really looking forward to it, and it's a real big surprise." Foyt expects to be in the same position as anyone else driving for the elder Foyt. "I'm not expecting anything different from how he treats his other drivers. I expect to be treated just the same, what he tells them to try to help them in the race cars. I know everything he tells me - or hollers at me - will be just for the good."

Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of the two-time 500 winner, is currently forming a team, with announcements to be made shortly. He has recently competed in SCCA F2000 and Pro USF2000 series in the U.S. and Formula Ford 1800 in the Netherlands. In addition to Infiniti Pro this season, he will be running shifter carts regularly to keep in shape.

USAC standout Aaron Fike will run a full program of about 60 or 70 Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget races this season in addition to the Infiniti Pro Series.

Ed Carpenter, another USAC standout, will run pavement Sprint and Silver Crown series, with some dirt Silver Crown, in addition to Infiniti Pro. His program for the season will also include shifter karts and possibly some midgets. "You never know - I'm willing to drive anything, and I'm always looking for something to do."

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Aaron Fike , Roger Bailey , Ed Carpenter , Arie Luyendyk Jr.