Conquest In For Full Season

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Eric Bachelart’s Christmas present arrived a bit late this year.

Bachelart, owner of Conquest Racing, wanted to announce his 2002 plans before the holiday season so he could enjoy it stress-free. That didn’t happen. On Tuesday, however, Bachelart and Mi-Jack announced they had formed a team that will field a car full time in the Indy Racing League.

“We are excited about the upcoming season in the IRL,” Bachelart said. “We ran the last two races of the season last year and were pleased with the new team’s performance. We know we still have some learning to do, but we think we can make an impact on the series.”

The team did not announce its driver, but Laurent Redon is scheduled to test with the team at the Test in the West in February. The team will use a Dallara-Infiniti combination.

Mi-Jack president Mike Laniganis is confident his company’s decision is the right one.

“It is the next logical step for our racing program.” Lanigan said. “After ten years as a sponsor, to evolve our racing program into a partnership with Eric is good business. Eric’s racing experience, as a driver and an owner, makes him a great partner in helping us achieve our marketing goals. We know he can bring a winning program to the table.”

In its two IRL appearances last season, Conquest Racing featured rookie Redon. He showed well at Chicagoland and Texas with finishes of seventh and 11th. Bachelart has negotiated with Redon during the offseason, and an official driver announcement is expected within the next 10 days.

Conquest competed in the Indy Lights Series last season before coming to the IRL. Mi-Jack has been associated with the team for several years and has been a sponsor in open-wheel racing for the past 10 years .

The new Mi-Jack/Conquest team will be based in Indianapolis. Bachelart will be the team’s chief executive officer.

Time for a Knapp
The combination of Greg Ray at Kelley Racing was formidable enough. It’s even more impressive now that engineer Thomas Knapp is aboard.

Ray and Knapp have proved to be a successful duo. They won an Indy Racing League title in 1999 at Team Menard and won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.

“Greg (Ray) and I have had some very frank conversations about where we are and what we need to do to accomplish Jim (Kelley) and Tom’s (Kelley) goals for the team, including the 2002 championship,” Knapp said. “Our history of working together spans quite a few years and having that to draw on will definitely expedite the team’s success.”

Their history of success includes not only the 1999 title but also four wins and 10 poles. The two made an impressive debut in 1998, when Ray qualified second for the Indy 500 with the low-budget Thomas Knapp Motorsports. He led 18 laps before a gearbox problem ended his day.

“The combination of Greg Ray and Thomas Knapp has proven to be successful time and again,” said Jim Freudenberg, Kelley Racing’s general manager. “We’re excited they both have come on board with Kelley Racing.”

This year will be the fifth season of the Ray-Knapp partnership. They’ll make their on-track debut at the Test in the West on Feb. 6-9 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Coors, IRL Extend Partnership
The Indy Racing League-Coors Brewing Co. partnership will continue through 2002, the two organizations announced this week.

Coors will continue to be the official beer of the Indianapolis 500 and the IRL, and sponsor of the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge and Coors Carb Day.

“The Coors Brewing Co. is proud to continue our relationship and partnership with the Indy Racing League,” said Steve Saunders, event marketing director for Coors Brewing Co. “This program has proven to be very beneficial to our brands and our sales team in the past, and we look forward to the 2002 season with the Indy Racing League. We are excited about the growth of the league in terms of attendance, media coverage and competition.”

Coors has sponsored the Pit Stop Competition since 1996. In 1999, it began sponsoring Carburetion Day. Coors first forged a relationship with the Indianapolis 500 in 1983.

“We are thrilled to have the continued support of the Coors Light brand in Indy Racing,” said Jeff Fernandez, assistant vice president of marketing partnerships for the IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Their promotional strength and broad activation efforts will enhance the league and the Indianapolis 500. We're pleased to add Coors to the expanding family of companies that are increasing their commitment in recognition of the growing value of the Indy Racing League.”

The IRL also announced this past week that Lincoln Electric has become the official welder of the IRL and will sponsor the Indy 500’s Hard Charger Award. The award is presented to the driver who gains the most positions from start to finish.

“Lincoln Electric is proud that the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have decided to partner with us,” said Carl Peters, director of motorsports for Lincoln Electric. “Our approach is to contribute to the series through equipment and technical support in an effort to make it a safer and more competitive sport.”

Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric also will participate in the IRL’s Leaders Circle program by providing welding equipment and supplies at no cost to 24 full-time teams. The value is $15,000 per team.

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