IRL Pro Series Coming Together
January 25, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
True, there is a lot of time between now and the series' scheduled debut at Kansas Speedway on July 7, but the Indy Racing League’s developmental series has picked up momentum in recent weeks.
Several teams have either expressed their interest in competing in the series or reserved car numbers, and the Indy Racing League added two tracks to the inaugural season this week.
Kentucky Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway will play host to the Pro Series this season with races on Aug. 11 and Sept. 14. The full schedule is expected next week.
“We're very pleased to be racing at Kentucky Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in our inaugural season,” said Roger Bailey, Infiniti Pro Series executive director. “I'm sure that these tracks will provide very exciting competition for both the drivers and the fans in the tradition of previous IRL events at Texas and Kentucky.”
Kentucky’s 100-mile IRIPS race will begin at 11:30 a.m. (ET) Aug. 11. After the race, the IRL’s Belterra Casino Indy 300 takes center stage at 1:30 p.m. The race at TMS will be the series’ season finale. Its starting time was not released.
Track officials welcome the Pro Series events because they are another race to advertise and include in season-ticket packages at no extra cost to the fans.
“We enjoy our partnership with Tony (George) and the entire Indy Racing staff. We’re delighted Kentucky Speedway has been selected to be part of the inaugural Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series schedule,” said Mark F. Cassis, Kentucky Speedway executive vice president and general manager. “This also is a win for our fans, who will now receive two exciting Indy Racing events for one price on Open Wheel Sunday.”
Eddie Gossage, TMS vice president and general manager, has been involved with the IRL since 1997. He sees the addition of a Pro Series race as another tie that binds TMS and the IRL.
“Texas Motor Speedway is the second home of the Indy Racing League, and we have grown together over the years,” Gossage said. “We have had the most exciting finishes in Indy Racing history at our track, and we now feel this new development series will produce that same kind of entertainment for our fans.”
In addition to a growing list of tracks, several competitors have expressed interest in running an Infiniti Pro Series team.
Sinden Racing Service announced Thursday that it would field a car for USAC Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year Ed Carpenter. Hemelgarn Racing has reserved the No. 91, Genoa Racing No. 36, and Arie Luyendyk has requested No. 5. PDM Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing are also expected to take part in the inaugural IRIPS season.
“I'm delighted with the response that we've been receiving from the racing community regarding the Infiniti Pro Series,” Bailey said.
Paul Diatlovich, PDM co-owner, said the Pro Series offers young drivers a “seamless” introduction to the Indy Racing League.
“We would like to add one or two Infiniti Pro Series cars to our program for 2002,” Diatlovich said. “We feel we can offer a unique opportunity for a young driver looking to make it to the IRL. A talented Pro Series driver can earn the opportunity to test our IRL car at the end of next season and make a seamless transition to the big leagues. We’ve run some super talented drivers in our cars and feel that the Infiniti Pro Series is a great way to test some new talent.”
In addition to solidifying the inaugural schedule and working with teams, Bailey has kept in touch with Dallara and Infiniti. He visited the two European manufacturers recently.
“It was my first visit to Dallara, and I was very impressed with the facility and the attitude of the people employed there. I'm confident that they will build the best possible car for the Infiniti Pro Series,” Bailey said. “We also had the opportunity to visit with the engineers at TWR and I'm extremely encouraged by the progress that they're making.”
Possible Pro Series Schedule
July 7, Kansas Speedway (confirmed)
July 20, Nashville Superspeedway (confirmed)
July 28, Michigan International Speedway (confirmed)
Aug. 11, Kentucky Speedway (confirmed)
Aug. 25, Gateway International Raceway (confirmed)
Sept. 8, Chicagoland Speedway(confirmed)
Sept. 14, Texas Motor Speedway (confirmed)