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Volume 24 No. 156
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          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).