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INDY'S GEORGE RESPONDS TO CART'S DECLARATION OF WAR
Published December 20, 1995
In a statement released yesterday, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George, founder of the new Indy Racing League, said they were "disappointed" with the decision by CART team owners to stage a race opposite the Indy 500 at Michigan Int'l Speedway on May 26. George: "CART owners and competitors are not locked out of either the Indianapolis 500 or the Indy Racing League. All have been invited to participate. Our intent was that the IRL could coexist with CART's current series of races -- which has never included the USAC-sanctioned Indianapolis 500. Whether by its own rule changes or scheduling conflicts, CART has created an unhealthy all-or-nothing choice for the racing community. The IRL was created for inclusion not exclusion -- and certainly not to be in direct conflict with or to replace any series already in existence." George said invites remain open to all drivers to compete in the IRL and qualify for the Indy 500 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway). CART REACTION: Andrew Craig, President of CART's IndyCar series, said the notion that "the Indy 500 makes drivers and drivers don't make the Indy 500" is "totally inappropriate" and "highly insulting" to the drivers on the circuit. One unnamed CART owner: "If you want to see real race-car drivers, you are going to go to MIS (Michigan). If you want to see the 'B' race, you go there (Indianapolis)." But the ORLANDO SENTINEL's Mike Zizzo notes that some CART teams may "succumb to sponsor pressure" to compete at Indy. Valvoline -- and Indy sponsor as well as an original IRL supporting sponsor -- will have its Walker Racing team race at Indy and the U.S. 500 (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/20). SPONSOR REAX: Leo Mehl, Worldwide Manager of Racing for Goodyear: "They're working hard to make people choose sides, which is exactly what Goodyear is not going to do." (Steve Ballard, USA TODAY, 12/20). IN THE MIDDLE: The current issue of INDY CAR RACING magazine reports virtually all IndyCar owners and sponsors are supporting the U.S. 500, with only Valvoline "caught in the web." Valvoline Motorsports Marketing Manager Mark Coughlin: "We didn't anticipate this level of solidarity, especially from the sponsors, who appear to be willing to pay the same sponsorship dollars and get less in return." Coughlin noted their IRL deal was done before the U.S. 500 "was a reality" and with the anticipation that 30% of IndyCar teams would race at Indy. Coughlin: "We have an agreement in principle [with IRL] based on certain deliverables, but those deliverables appear to be going away" (INDY CAR RACING magazine, 12/20 issue).