INDY RACING LEAGUE HONORS COMPETITORS AT AWARDS CEREMONY
INDIANAPOLIS, November 22, 1997 – The teams of the Indy Racing League gathered at the University of Indianapolis in the Christel De Haan Fine Arts Center’s Ruth Lilly Performance Hall tonight for the League’s 1996-97 awards ceremony. The 1996-97 season began on August 18, 1996 at New Hampshire International Raceway and ended at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 11, 1997 with the crowning of 1996-97 champion Tony Stewart, who won by just six points over second-place finisher Davey Hamilton. With a total of nine different winners in 10 races, the IRL’s second season thrived on diversity ranging from Arie Luyendyk winning his second Indianapolis 500 and the first IRL night race at Texas Motor Speedway, to a brand-new start-up team like Jim Guthrie’s winning at Phoenix International Raceway. "We had an excellent year, and made great progress," said Indy Racing League Executive Director Leo Mehl. "The performance of our teams, owners, car and engine builders and officials was outstanding. Everything we did was new – new cars, engines and tracks, as well as many new drivers and teams. It was an exciting season for everyone, especially the fans." The 1997 Engine Manufacturer Championship trophy was won by Oldsmobile Aurora, and was accepted on behalf of Oldsmobile by Darwin Clark, vice president of General Motors and general manager, Oldsmobile Division. Six Indy Racing League Outstanding Manufacturers were also named. They were Dallara Automobili da Competizione and G Force Precision Engineering Ltd., engine manufacturer Nissan for the Infiniti Indy engine, tire constructors Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., as well as EMCO gears. Leo Mehl presented a special award to IRL Technical Director Phil Casey, naming him the 1997 Indy Racing League Achievement Award winner for outstanding contributions to the success of the League. Honorees at the IRL banquet included 1996-97 Indy Racing League Champion Tony Stewart and 1996-97 Entrant Champion Team Menard. Jim Guthrie of Blueprint Racing won Rookie of the Year honors. The top 20 League drivers and teams received a portion of the more than $1.7 million prize fund. The drivers included (1st through 20th position); Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton, Marco Greco, Eddie Cheever, Jr., Scott Goodyear, Arie Luyendyk, Roberto Guerrero, Buddy Lazier, Eliseo Salazar, Buzz Calkins, Stephan Gregoire, Jim Guthrie, Robbie Buhl, Mike Groff, John Paul, Jr., Affonso Giaffone, Mark Dismore, Billy Boat, Kenny Brack and Robbie Groff. Accessory awards included in the total prize money above were also presented by MBNA (Lap Leader Award) to Tony Stewart in the amount of $25,000; from KECO to Tony Stewart in the amount of $2,000, and $1,000 to Davey Hamilton for being the highest finishing KECO users; Pennzoil awarded $25,000 to Bill Martin of Team Menard for being the 1996-97 Championship Chief Mechanic; Valvoline awarded $30,000 to Davey Hamilton for being the highest finishing Valvoline user and Sprint PCS awarded $25,000 to Jim Guthrie for being named Rookie of the Year. Entertainment at the banquet was arranged by The Design Group Inc. of Indianapolis and included Grammy Award-winning artist Kathy Mattea, who has received two Grammy Awards and was twice named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year. The Purdue Varsity Glee Club, a select men’s vocal group that has performed around the world also entertained guests as well as the Rhythms of Life, a five-member group that is dedicated to percussion presentations. They choreographed and presented a one-of-a-kind performance using Indianapolis-style race car equipment and related materials. The 1996-97 Indy Racing League banquet will be aired in its entirety on November 29 at 10:30 p.m. on WNDY-TV, and again on January 1, 1998 at 7:00 p.m. on SpeedVision. The 1998 IRL season begins at the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World on January 22 – 24, 1998.
Media Contacts: Mai Lindstrom, IMS/IRL Public Relations Director, 317/484-6780 Lisa Sommers, IRL Public Relations Manager, 317/484-6526
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