IRL: Gil de Ferran named Grand Marshal at Homestead

Gil de Ferran Named Grand Marshal For Toyota Indy 300 2003 Indy 500 Champion to Give Command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines" MIAMI, FL (February 20, 2004) - Reigning Indianapolis 500 Champion and recently retired Indy Racing League IndyCar...

Gil de Ferran Named Grand Marshal For Toyota Indy 300
2003 Indy 500 Champion to Give Command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines"

MIAMI, FL (February 20, 2004) - Reigning Indianapolis 500 Champion and recently retired Indy Racing League IndyCar Series racing legend Gil de Ferran, has been named Grand Marshal for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300, on Sunday, February 29 at 2 pm (ESPN) at the NEW Homestead-Miami Speedway. As Grand Marshal, the two-time National Champion will give the most famous words in racing: "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines."

"It's really a great honor for me to be invited as the Grand Marshal for such a big event here in South Florida," said de Ferran. "I have strong connections with Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the South Florida community, and with Toyota being that they gave me my first Indianapolis 500 win and I gave them their first Indianapolis 500 win."

De Ferran, who retired at the end of the 2003 season after an illustrious racing career that included National Championships in 2000 and 2001, holds the World Closed Course Speed Record with a lap of 241.428 mph. He left the sport in dramatic fashion winning the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and finishing second in the IndyCar Series point standings with Toyota power. Race fans will have the opportunity to pay tribute to de Ferran during pre-race ceremonies at the Toyota Indy 300.

"We're thrilled to have Gil de Ferran, one of the greatest drivers in the history of open-wheel racing and a South Florida neighbor of ours, serve as Grand Marshal for the Toyota Indy 300," said Curtis Gray, President Homestead-Miami Speedway. "We encourage race fans to come out to the Speedway and recognize Gil who went out on the top of his sport, retiring after a successful 2003 highlighted by his Indianapolis 500 victory."

The Toyota Indy 300 will mark the IndyCar Series debut of the NEW Homestead-Miami Speedway with its state-of-the-art, 20-degree variable banking. Average speeds of over 218 miles-per-hour were registered in last month's Spring Training at the new track. De Ferran believes that the new banking will provide fans with an incredibly exciting race.

"Because of the high banks, I expect a lot of side-by-side racing going on throughout the day," said de Ferran. "I also expect that everybody will be running in a pack of cars all day until the checkered flag and the race won't be decided until the last few laps, if not the last lap."

De Ferran's former teammate and two-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske headlines the drivers competing in the Toyota Indy 300. Castroneves is excited to see his former teammate and fellow Brazilian at the event.

"I think it's awesome, " said Castroneves. "It's going to be an experience that will be new for Gil, but I know it's going to be great for him and the fans. Hopefully, he'll say 'Gentlemen, and especially Helio, Start your Engines'."

For more information or for tickets to the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, call (305) 230-RACE or 800-PIT-SHOP log on to homesteadmiamispeedway.com; or visit TicketMaster.

-hms-

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske