IPS: Taylor wins Nashville, extends points lead

IPS: Taylor wins Nashville, extends points lead

LEBANON, Tenn. (July 18, 2003) -- Mark Taylor earned his fourth career Infiniti Pro Series race by leading flag to flag at the Nashville Superspeedway Friday evening. Taylor held off a late race charge by Tom Wood, crossing the finish line 0.3361...

LEBANON, Tenn. (July 18, 2003) -- Mark Taylor earned his fourth career Infiniti Pro Series race by leading flag to flag at the Nashville Superspeedway Friday evening. Taylor held off a late race charge by Tom Wood, crossing the finish line 0.3361 of a second ahead of Wood.

Mark Taylor.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
With two laps to go, "I had a really good run on him," said Wood. "I was hoping he would commit low because I was going to go high. But he was smart enough to kind of go high."

"He had several good runs on me," Taylor admitted. "It was tough to keep him back."

Taylor and Wood dominated Friday's endurance day at Nashville Superspeedway. The one-day practice, qualifying and race event was a test of stamina for the Infiniti Pro Series drivers, crews and cars.

The Panther Racing driver, Taylor, extended his points lead to 271 over Ed Carpenter and Thiago Medeiros at 175 each. "We were able to run flat out all the way through the race," the rookie Taylor commented. "It was a good car which is the important thing, to be able to keep it out front."

Wood mounted his bid for the lead after squaring off against his Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Brandon Irwin. Wood and Irwin swapped the runner up spot several times before Irwin spun in a single car incident as he exited turn four.

Irwin said he had a decent race car, "but it was hard to deal with in traffic. It was pushing real bad."

A third Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry driven by Ross Fonferko finished third. It was Fonferko's first Pro Series race. "It was great. This actually came together real quick," Fonferko said.

"We got a call from Sam (Schmidt) and he asked us if we wanted to test here last week. We came out, did the test. We actually finalized funding for the race within about three days of the race.

"We ran real strong in practice. You know, I was happy with where we were towards the front of the pack. We didn't quite have enough in qualifying. We just had a little bit too much downforce, couldn't free up the car enough to get it to run fast enough. It was great. You know, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, everybody on the team really made me feel welcome, comfortable."

Jeff Simmons started third but a first lap incident with one of the Schmidt cars cost the New York driver half his front wing. Simmons waited until a lap 23 yellow to replace the damaged wing, returning to the track with a much-improved car. He managed to finish fourth after a stunning drive through the field.

Ed Carpenter ran comfortably in the top five before a single cart incident forced him out on lap 21. "The car was good in turns 1 and 2, but we had a bad push in turns 3 and 4," said Carpenter after brushing the turn four wall. "I didn't have hard contact, but it bent the right front suspension."

Thiago Medeiros rounded out the top five with Cory Witherhill and Paul Dana finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.

Tom Wood.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
Wood lead the first practice of the day with a speed of 176.304 mph. Taylor was further back in the field at eighth fastest. The second practice session had Thiago Medeiros fastest at 180.883 mph. Taylor increased his time to place him third fastest with Wood in fourth just slightly slower.

Car setups for qualifying setup changed due to the lower track temperatures, Taylor just squeezed a time to take the pole. His time of 26.5688 seconds (176.146 mph) besting Brandon Erwin by 0.018 seconds.

"We were able to pull that out for qualifying," Taylor stated after the end of the long day. "We put it on the pole, changed quite a lot of stuff for the warm-up and for the race."

The final practice again saw Wood top the charts at  174.901 mph followed by
Jeff Simmons and Erwin.  Taylor was back in seventh.

"We were fastest just about every session today," stated Wood. "We just missed the setup in qualifying a little bit. Sam Schmidt Motorsports gave me an awesome car, it was really good."

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Brandon Irwin , Brandon Erwin , Sam Schmidt , Tom Wood , Jeff Simmons , Ed Carpenter , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Panther Racing