Ex-IndyCar team to Star Mazda Entrepreneur and racing enthusiast Dale Pelfrey announced today that Pelfrey Indy Racing, a competitive IZOD IndyCar team from 1998 – 2000 then run under the banner of Team Pelfrey, will return to competition with a multi-car effort in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.
Nick Andries, a rising young open-wheel racer who competed in both the 2010 Skip Barber National series and the Star Mazda Championship with sponsorship from Dale Pelfrey, has been signed as the new team's first driver. Andries, 20, is a student at St. Petersburg College.
Headed by veteran open-wheel team manager Geoff Fickling and headquartered at a new 6300 sq. ft. facility in the St Petersburg, Florida area, Pelfrey Indy Racing, P.I.R. for short, will make its official Star Mazda series debut at the St Petersburg Grand Prix, March 25-27.
“I ventured back into race team ownership after a ten year hiatus because I was seeing so many talented young racers like Nick fail to get the opportunity to move up and race in the Star Mazda series,” says Pelfrey, former owner of Dayton, Ohio's Enginetics Aerospace, a company specializing in the design and manufacturer of jet engine components for the international market. "The Star Mazda series is only one step below Indy Lights and a valuable stepping-stone in the professional career ladder to Indy. I have hired an experienced, professional crew for P.I.R. which will be led by Geoff Fickling, who won the 2010 Team Championship with Andersen. I have also re-signed a fine young driver, Nick Andries who I have supported throughout his racing career. My plan is to add two more drivers making P.I.R. a solid three car team."
Dale Pelfrey has a track record of building successful open-wheel teams; the 1998-2000 version of Team Pelfrey signed Sarah Fisher, then an 18 year-old rookie, to compete in the Indy Racing League. She ran her first IRL race in Team Pelfrey's Dallara at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999. Team Pelfrey has also provided racing opportunities to a number of other drivers including Lynn St. James, Danny Ongais, Memo Gidley, Bryan Tyler, Billy Boat, Robby Unser and John Paul Jr., who led 39 laps of the 1998 Indianapolis 500.
Pelfrey himself has raced motorcycles, karts, Skip Barber Racing cars and a P2 car in Grand-Am Rolex Series. His passion for racing has sometimes put him in the driver's seat, but more often he indulges his competitive instincts by providing a seat for young talented drivers who lack financing.
"I want to thank Dale for his support throughout my racing career and for what I feel is my most important opportunity so far," says Andries. "The opportunity to start a new team is very exciting because P.I.R. has put together the right personnel for success. It's a new team, however all the guys know each other and have worked together before. As a result, I strongly believe the team and I will be ready to contend for race wins -- and ultimately the 2011 championship -- starting at St. Pete."
Pelfrey is committed to providing the team with the tools to be successful and competitive in 2011. The team has an ambitious test schedule, with multiple tracks, before the Star Mazda Season Opener in front of their hometown crowd on the Streets of St. Petersburg. Work is already underway as the team moved into their new shop in Clearwater on December 15th. Equipment has been purchased and an experienced full-time crew, drawn primarily from the now-disbanded Andersen Racing Star Mazda team, has already begun preparations for next season.
“First of all, we’re extremely grateful to Dale for not only putting this team together, but how he has assembled it," says team manager Geoff Fickling. "From Day One when we first began discussing this venture, he made it clear that if we were to do this, he wanted it to be done the right way and every step of the way he has proven that. We’ve assembled the best of the best in terms of personnel, equipment, shop space, and the resources to immediately contend for a championship. I can’t express enough how excited we are to be a part of a project like this."