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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 29, 1996) -- They shoot! They score! With a victory in the Marlboro 500 yesterday Firestone completed a hat trick this Indy season, capturing all three 500 mile races -- the U.S. 500, Indy 500 and Marlboro 500. The winning streak at superspeedways actually stands at four with the 1995 Marlboro event. Firestone-equipped cars also captured the pole position for each of the races.
"We're very proud of our record at the superspeedways," said Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone motorsports manager. "Starting with last year's Indy 500 our engineers have provided an excellent product for these tracks. We haven't missed a beat, we have improved it over the past year."
"What can I say? The tires are the kind of thing you just don't worry about going into or during the race," said Tasman Motorsports owner Steve Horne. "The tires are there all the time for you, very reliable."
That reliability helped Horne's driver Andre Ribeiro motor to the checkered flag yesterday. With plenty of Firestone and Honda muscle and some savvy driving, Ribeiro kept the field at bay for his second victory of the season.
"The racing among the top cars was spectacular and it's obvious the Firehawks gave our guys the confidence to duel at 230 miles per hour," said Speyer. "Firestone is associated with such super people. Steve Horne and Tasman have been with us from the beginning and moved up from Firestone Indy Lights. We're so happy for all of them -- Andre, Steve and the entire organization."
Ribeiro's teammate Adrian Fernandez recorded the race's fastest lap at 234.020 mph. Firestone drivers led 240 of the Marlboro's 250 laps. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Jimmy Vasser, riding on Firestone tires, started from the pole following a record qualifying run of 234.665 mph. Firestone, with only nine cars in the field, held seven of the top-ten starting spots.
However, the Red Cross could have sponsored the Firestone family this race. While no one was injured badly, cars and feelings were bruised. Payton/Coyne Racing's Roberto Moreno, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Zanardi and Brix/Comptech Racing's Parker Johnstone crashed into the wall while Forsythe Racing's Greg Moore experienced wheel bearing problems, Fernandez a bad clutch and Patrick Racing's Scott Pruett a deceased engine.
"A lot of our guys had tough luck while running a very strong race," added Speyer. "We're certainly relieved everyone is ok after some nasty wrecks. We also wish Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy speedy recoveries and hope they're back in action soon." (Tracy was injured in a practice accident and Fittipaldi in a first lap race crash.)
Ribeiro's win assures Firestone of a winning record in its second year of racing. Firestone is 8-4 in the PPG Indy Car World Series with four events remaining and 3-0 in the Indy Racing League with two races left in this calendar year.