IPS: New race added at Indy in May

Historic new race added to month of May schedule. IRL Infiniti Pro Series to race on second weekend of qualifying. INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 12, 2003 -- For the first time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, another automobile race will...

Historic new race added to month of May schedule.
IRL Infiniti Pro Series to race on second weekend of qualifying.

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 12, 2003 -- For the first time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, another automobile race will share the famed 2.5-mile oval with the Indianapolis 500 during the month of May, Speedway officials announced March 12.

Featuring the cars and drivers of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series, the Freedom 100 will be run on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 17, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 40-lap race will see the green flag at 2 p.m. local time.

The Infiniti Pro Series was created in 2001 and built on the same founding principles as the IRL IndyCarTM Series -- to create an affordable formula that fosters close competition.

"This is an exciting day for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The Freedom 100 will be a great addition to the second week of activities for the Indianapolis 500. It's a perfect fit to the schedule and makes sense for many reasons."

IRL and IMS officials accelerated the possibility of the Speedway playing host to an Infiniti Pro Series race after the successful debut of the series in 2002. A.J. Foyt IV won the inaugural championship and the Firestone Firehawk Cup that accompanies it. The decision to move forward with the race was solidified after the successful first event of 2003 at Homestead--Miami Speedway.

"The growth of the Infiniti Pro Series has exceeded the IRL's expectations," said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the Indy Racing League. "Roger (Bailey) was given a clean sheet of paper to build a series which will prepare drivers, mechanics, teams and sponsors for the IRL IndyCar Series. We all saw the Pro Series at the Speedway eventually, but its rapid growth made the Speedway race a real possibility in 2003."

The IRL Infiniti Pro Series serves as an essential stepping-stone for drivers striving to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel, oval-track racing in America -- the IRL IndyCar Series.

"This is great news for the teams and drivers of the Infiniti Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series. "Clearly, racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the goal of these drivers. This race will provide them a great opportunity to get experience there before competing in the Indy 500."

A quality field of teams and drivers competes in the Infiniti Pro Series, which grows from seven to 12 races in 2003. The lineup of drivers comes from a variety of disciplines. Mark Taylor, winner of the first race in 2003, is joined by Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, and 2002 race winner Cory Witherill. Short-track open-wheel stars Aaron Fike, Ed Carpenter and Ronnie Johncox are back in 2003 and compete against road racers Paul Dana and Jeff Simmons, to name a few.

"I think it's great, I really do," said Al Unser, four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and IRL driver coach. "It's going to give the Infiniti Pro Series drivers a chance to feel what it's like to be part of the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing.' The drivers, the sponsors and the crews will all get a feel for what it's like. It's great. I really mean that. It helps them.

"I wish I would have had something like that when I was starting. When I first came there, they put me out there with the veterans and said, 'Do it, and if you do it wrong, go home.' This will teach them so much, and with (Rick) Mears (driver coach) and all of us with our knowledge and encouragement, they'll have an advantage we all wish we would have had. They'll learn the fundamentals that it takes and the adrenaline that this place produces. I think it's great."

Infiniti Q45 engines power Dallara Automobili chassis built for the development series, with Firestone Firehawk tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis, providing an ideal training ground for the 650-horsepower, single-seat winged cars of the IRL IndyCar Series. All events are 100-mile sprints.

Tickets for the inaugural Freedom 100 are $5, which is the normal Month of May practice day ticket price. The day will include the final IndyCar Series practice leading up to Bump Day, the final day of qualifying for the 87th Indianapolis 500.

A limited number of reserved-seat tickets for the Indianapolis 500 are still available. General admission and reserved tickets for practice, qualifications and Race Day can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Arie Luyendyk , A.J. Foyt IV , Al Unser Sr. , Aaron Fike , Ronnie Johncox , Jeff Simmons , Tony George , Roger Bailey , Brian Barnhart , Ed Carpenter , Arie Luyendyk Jr.