THE IRL OPENS YEAR THREE WITH TITLE SPONSOR AND NEW OPTIMISM
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).