Arie Luyendyk Jr, the 2003 IRL Crew 'Most Popular Driver Award' winner for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, will return to the IRL support category with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2004.

Luyendyk will drive the #5 Dallara-Infiniti from the start of the season, but admits that he will be looking to contest at least a partial campaign in the Indy Racing League. While partnerships are being put into place, however, the opportunity to continue to race in the Infiniti Pro Series became available with the Schmidt team.

"I am really happy to have the opportunity to race for Sam this year," Luyendyk said, as he prepared for the Infiniti Pro Series Open Test in Phoenix, "I know he's got good equipment, good personnel and an all-around good team, so I should be able to do very well there - and, hopefully, win a race or two.

"Of course, we are still working on an IndyCar Series programme for this year, and hope to have something in place soon. But I need to be in a race car as much as possible, and this ride is giving me the opportunity to do that and stay sharp as the 2004 season starts. I want to thank Sam for this ride - I hope I can reward him by landing in Victory Circle."

Schmidt was equally happy to add Luyendyk to his line-up of drivers, which includes Luyendyk's friend and rival Thiago Medeiros.

"Arie Luyendyk Sr and I were team-mates on Fred Treadway's IndyCar team in '99 at Indy, and I still have that in my memory as one of my absolute best experiences as an IndyCar Series driver," Schmidt explained, "He was a phenomenal team-mate. Either one of us should have won [the Indy 500] in that year. So to be able to put this deal together to run Arie Jr is great for everybody. I'm pleased to be running Junior - I think he has a great personality and I think he's got a lot of talent. Hopefully, our team can help show that."