The IndyCar Series (currently known as the Verizon IndyCar Series for sponsorship reasons) is the premier level of open wheel racing in North America. Its parent company began in 1996 as a competitor to CART known as the Indy Racing League (IRL) which was created by then Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George. In 2008, the IndyCar Series merged with the Champ Car World Series (formerly CART). The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR. Due to the legal settlement with CART, the Indy Racing League was unable to utilize the name IndyCar until the beginning of the 2003 season. For 1996–1997, the series was simply referred to as the Indy Racing League, with no genre designation. For 1998–1999, the series garnered its first title sponsor, and was advertised as the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. The contract was not renewed after the second year. In 2000, the series sold its naming rights to Internet search engine Northern Light for five seasons, and the series was named the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. After only two seasons, however, the sponsorship agreement ended when Northern Light reevaluated its business plan and ended all sponsorships.