George acquires assets of Kelley Racing
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Indy Racing League founder Tony George has acquired the assets of Kelley Racing and will operate a team in this year's IndyCar Series.
In a surprise announcement during the IRL's annual Test in the West at Phoenix International Raceway on Wednesday, George said he would continue as chief executive officer of the IRL, the open-wheel series he founded in 1996.
"It's not that uncommon in today's environment in motorsports," George said. "Any instance you can think of, there's someone who has a leadership role or an ownership role in a series who helps support it, even to the extent of fielding a team, or driving.
It's something I haven't done up to this point, but Kelley's decision to get out created a great opportunity for someone."
George promised his ownership would not influence decisions and rulings by race officials.
"Obviously, this group up here has to do everything to make sure we're above reproach," he said.
George said it had been just three weeks since he began considering the move to start the team he named Vision Racing LLC. He spoke with three other owners, getting what he acknowledged as mixed reactions, and closed on the purchase of Tom Kelley's cars and equipment Jan. 31.
He promised the team would be ready to race in the IRL opener March 6 at Homestead, Fla.
Larry Curry, a 25-year veteran of open-wheel racing, is Vision Racing's new manager.
Ed Carpenter, 23, George's stepson, will drive the IndyCar entry, and 2004 USAC Sprint Car champion Jay Drake will drive for Vision in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
Carpenter finished 16th in last year's IndyCar driver standings for Red Bull Cheever Racing.
George said the desire to give opportunities to promising young drivers influenced his decision. As the league's CEO, he also was anxious to keep as many teams as possible in the league after losing Mexican driver Adrian Fernandez's financially strapped team in January.
The league also is in transition after adding road races in St. Petersburg, Fla., Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen, N.Y., to its 17-race calendar.
George originally broke from CART because he wanted an oval-only series.
"As the offseason wound down, it became obvious that we needed a car count," George said. "We're going to need to keep all that equipment that Tom had for sale in the system. There were a lot of teams that were looking at acquiring bits and pieces of it, but I felt that the best opportunity was to try and keep it together."
Vision has no corporate sponsorships yet.
Curry, who is credited with bringing 1997 IRL champion and current NASCAR star Tony Stewart into the then-fledgling league, has hired a few team members, but estimated that 70 percent of the vacancies remained to be filled. A one-car IRL team usually has 20 or more members.
"We want to get people in key positions, and then have them in the process of the rest of the hirings," Curry said. "To build the thing successfully, everybody has to believe in one another and what their abilities are."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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