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SBD/23/Leagues Governing Bodies
THE IRL OPENS YEAR THREE WITH TITLE SPONSOR AND NEW OPTIMISM
Published January 23, 1998
The IRL opens its season this weekend with the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, and Juliet Macur of the ORLANDO SENTINEL writes, "After two years of stumbling, the IRL hopes to show the racing world that it finally has weaned itself from [CART]." IRL execs "expect the 50,000- seat grandstands to be almost full." IRL Founder Tony George "expects this season to be the IRL's strongest yet." The league has signed Pep Boys as its title sponsor, each of its 11 races will be broadcast live on network or cable TV and "for the first time, there will be drivers who will not automatically make it into the race because there are more drivers than there are starting spots." George: "There is really no dialogue between CART and the IRL anymore. Now we're focused on our product and they're focused on theirs" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/23). In Ft. Lauderdale, Richard Biebrich writes the IRL "is here to stay." Biebrich: "Struggling since its first race in 1996 for an identity of its own, the IRL now has a major sponsor in Pep Boys and stars such as Tony Stewart" (SUN-SENTINEL, 1/23). In Dallas, Holly Cain: "There are those who figured the [IRL] would just go away. But corporate America has other ideas. ... The big-time involvement of a company such as Pep Boys sends a message that the series has arrived, whether you still question the competency of its drivers or the level of competition" (Holly Cain, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/22).