ERNIE IRVAN TOURS MIS RENOVATIONS; ANNOUNCES MAJOR EVENT FOR BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF MICHIGAN
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ernie Irvan doesn't remember the practice accident that nearly took his life back in August of 1994 at Michigan International Speedway. In fact, Irvan doesn't remember the 21 days that followed his turn-two practice crash either.
But what sticks out most in Irvan's mind was returning to the track that nearly took his life just three years later and winning the June 1997 Miller 400 at MIS in what turned out to be an emotional day for Irvan and the thousands of race fans on hand that day.
"I had no idea I'd be able to race at Michigan again, let along win the race," Irvan said about his emotional June 1997 win. "I had never won at MIS so that made it very special. It was tough to drive with tears in my eyes and I wasn't crying because I was sad."
Irvan returned to MIS for the first time on Tuesday since 1999 when another crash in a Busch Series car essentially ended his career, as he announced a new charity event to benefit the Brain Injury Association of Michigan. Irvan was joined by Dr. John Maino (the doctor credited with saving Irvan's life in 1994) and Mike Dabbs, President of the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.
Irvan's visit to MIS on Tuesday brought back a wide range of emotions as he announced that his Race 2 Safety Foundation will partner with the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIA) for the first annual walk-a-thon entitled the "L.A.P.S. Walk," which stands for Leadership & Awareness to Promote Safety to be held on August 17 at MIS.
"It made sense to hold the L.A.P.S. walk at MIS due to my relationship and history with the track and my life being saved here," said Irvan. "My life took a 360 degree turn here at Michigan, but it's not over yet. If it weren't for Dr. (John) Maino, I wouldn't be here to carry on this next venture in my life. Obviously it's not the same as driving a racecar, but it will be just as honorable."
For a minimum $100 entry fee, fans can participate and walk side-by-side with Irvan and other NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers on the two-mile oval. The event is being held to raise money for brain injury education, awareness and prevention. Fans can get more information on the L.A.P.S walk by visiting www.lapswalk.org.
"You never really embrace how life-changing brain injury is until you experience it," said Irvan. "My goals changed from being the top NASCAR driver in America to simply being able to take my daughter to school. I had a second and then a third chance at life, and I feel these chances were granted to me so that I could make a difference -- so I could spread the word about brain injury awareness, protection and prevention."
In addition to announcing the charity walk, Irvan also took a tour of the ongoing renovation project at MIS with track president Brett Shelton to see the progress of the largest renovation project in MIS history.
Paving is currently underway in the new AAA Motorsports Fan Plaza, which is a 26-acre area behind the main grandstand that will give MIS a new front door and house a great new area for sponsor displays, merchandise and a great area for fans to relax when they aren't enjoying on-track activity. Progress on the new suite, operations and Champions Club levels are taking shape, with glass currently going up on the new tower structure on all three levels.
"The new construction that is happening at MIS is amazing," said Irvan. "I can't believe how much it's grown even since the last time I was here in 1999. MIS has always been a great facility and it's only going to get better for the fans after this is done."
For more information or to sign up for the L.A.P.S charity walk, visit www.lapswalk.org or www.biami.org for more information on the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.
Tickets are still available for all June 17-19 activities at MIS, with children 12 and under admitted free to the Friday June 17 ARCA RE/MAX Hantz 200 and the Paramount Health Insurance 200 on Saturday June 18. Tickets are still available for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Batman Begins 400 on Sunday, June 19. All tickets can be purchased now by visiting www.MISpeedway.com, or by calling the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010.