American Chris Festa will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2005 as the team defends its Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship.

Festa finished eighth in the Toyota Atlantic championship as a rookie in 2004.

He earned a top finish of sixth at Portland driving for Rahal Letterman Racing.

"Chris did a great job in the Toyota Atlantic Series this past year, competing with Rahal Letterman Racing and impressed a lot of people, including Bobby [Rahal]," said team owner Sam Schmidt.

"He has already done an excellent job in winter testing. We were able to run the oval at Phoenix, where he was very mature for his age and ran lap times that would have qualified him for the front row. We also think he will be able to provide valuable feedback as the series will involve four road course events in 2005."

Festa recorded more than 60 karting victories from 1998-2002. He was a factory driver for Paul Tracy Karting in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, he scored a pair of top-five finishes in the U.S. Formula Ford Zetec Championship.

"We've been watching the growth of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, as well as last year's domination by Sam Schmidt Motorsports," Festa said. "When Sam called, we knew that he had a programme that could win races and a championship. The addition of four road courses was also very appealing.

"It's always difficult to continually run new cars, on new tracks, in new series every year instead of staying for consecutive years. However, we think the transition from Atlantics to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series will be somewhat closer and allow us to be a front runner from the start. I've also had the chance to get to know Sam and the team over the past 30 days, and they run a first-class operation."

Sam Schmidt Motorsports won the 2004 Menards Infiniti Pro Series title with driver Thiago Medeiros, who won six races and eight pole positions.

The team will announce additional drivers for 2005 in the near future.



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