Stalwart IRL team owner John Menard has announced that his Menard's chain of hardware stores will become the co-title sponsor of next year's Infiniti Pro Series.

The new series name will be the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series and the deal is the first of its kind for the fledgling Championship, which enters its third season in 2004.

"The Indy Racing League finds itself with an exciting opportunity as we partner together with two great companies in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

"The combination of Menards, Infiniti and the IRL brings together companies with unique strengths that offer an opportunity to build an exciting business and marketing platform together."

Menard Inc. is family-owned by IRL IndyCar Series team owner John Menard and is based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Menard started his business in 1960, selling lumber on weekends while his competition was closed. The company now consists of more than 185 stores.

"We were one of the original teams when the IRL started in 1996," Menard said. "We've supported the Indy Racing League from its inception and are proud to join them now as a marketing partner. We share their vision of open-wheel racing in this country, and by lending our support to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, we are making a commitment to the future of our sport."

Menard began competing in Indy-style racing as a car owner in 1979 at the Indianapolis 500. Since then, the team has won three Indianapolis 500 pole positions and two IndyCar Series Championships (Tony Stewart, 1996-97; Greg Ray, 1999). The team has 10 IndyCar Series race wins and a record 23 MBNA Poles.

The engine department at Menard's has already agreed to take charge of preparing the spec-Infiniti Q45 engines for next year's series, which will remain at 12 races, six of which are set to be held on the same day as the main IRL race.