IRL may lose a founding sponsor

UPDATE While reporting Ed Carpenter's and Andre Lotterer's recent test for the team at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, the IRL's official website www.indyracingleague.com stated that the team has still to confirm sponsorship for its second Dallara-Chevrolet for 2005 for Panther Racing. The No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet began 2004 with British rookie Mark Taylor behind the wheel, but Taylor was replaced by American Townsend Bell after just six races and numerous crashes. Menards provided primary sponsorship for the No. 2 car but with the company's 2005 partnership with Robby Gordon's new NASCAR Nextel Cup team and Chevrolet's impending withdrawal from the IRL scene, John Menard may have elected to focus his attentions elsewhere for 2005. Crash.net 12/07/04 One of the founding sponsors of the IRL series, Menards/Johns Manville sponsorship on the second car at Panther Racing is in doubt for 2005 as lumber magnate John Menard concentrates on son Paul Menard's entry into the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

Other IRL scuttlebutt says AJ Foyt Racing hopes to return for AJ Foyt, IV's third IRL season, though sponsorship has not been announced and troubled financial and insurance firm Conseco is gone. You can bet Tony George won't let Foyt close his doors, so look for him to fund the deal.

2004 IRL participants Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, Mo Nunn Racing, Patrick Racing, and Greg Ray's Access Motorsports are all planning to return in some form, though specifics have not been settled.

As for rideless drivers, veterans Jaques Lazier, Felipe Giaffone, Roger Yasukawa, and Robby McGehee are actively soliciting for rides, while Pro Series drivers Paul Dana, Thiago Medeiros, and PJ Chesson are trying to find their place to break into the IndyCars. Yasukawa, Ed Carpenter (via Tony George's bank account) and Chesson are all thought to have some sponsorship available.

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