IRL: Homestead-Miami: Notebook 2002-02-28

Indy Racing League Notebook Indy Racing party set for Brickyard Crossing; Unser is the $20-million man INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002 - The fourth annual Indy Racing Season Opener Party will take place Saturday, March 2, in the Flag Room...

Indy Racing League Notebook
Indy Racing party set for Brickyard Crossing; Unser is the $20-million man

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002 - The fourth annual Indy Racing Season Opener Party will take place Saturday, March 2, in the Flag Room at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort & Inn on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Indy Racing League fans from www.trackforum.com have organized a non-profit gathering for people who can't attend the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in person and would like to watch the season opener with other Indy Racing fans.

Several of the Indy Racing fans plan to tour the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum and take track tours around the famous 2.5-mile oval when the IMS gates open at 9 a.m. Following the tours, they will proceed to the Flag Room in time to watch "Indy Racing 2Day" at 12:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2.

Fans will have a chance to win several prizes, including Indy Racing T-shirts, hats, TrackForum logo wear, passes to RACERS karting center in Indianapolis and other Indy Racing memorabilia. The party is free.

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The $20-million man: Al Unser Jr. starts the 2002 Indy Racing League season Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the first and only American open-wheel driver to have topped the $20 million mark in career winnings.

Unser is the all-time CART leader with $18,828,406 in earnings, but that total does not include the $1,624,825 he has collected over the past two seasons driving in the IRL.

His grand total heading into the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami is $20,453,231.

Unser's winnings have come in 295 starts, his first being at the former Riverside, Calif., road course in 1982. If Unser starts the season's first four IRL events - Miami, Phoenix, Fontana, Calif., and Nazareth, Pa. - and qualifies for his 15th Indianapolis 500 start, he will take the green flag in his 300th top-level open-wheel event at Indy.

Al Unser, his father and Indy Racing League driving coach, started 321 races over 30 seasons. But because of the difference in purses during his career his winnings totaled $6,740,843.

Michael Andretti, who will return this season for his second straight Indianapolis 500, is second all-time in earnings at $18,055,594. The $346,225 he received for placing third in last year's Indianapolis 500 helped push his total past the $18-million plateau.

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Bridgestone/Firestone helps CARA, kids: Since 1998, the Bridgestone/Firestone Trust Fund has made annual contributions totaling $194,500 to support the CARA Charities' "Buckle Up Baby" child car-seat program. This year's Trust Fund contribution of $50,000 will allow CARA to continue its mission of providing free child car safety seats to low-income families across the United States.

"Today there are hundreds of families protecting their children while traveling, thanks to the generous contributions from the Bridgestone/Firestone Trust Fund," said Mary Lou Bogner, national director of CARA Charities. "The life-saving seats are well known for their ability to safeguard infants and small children, but many low-income families simply cannot afford them. Because the Bridgestone/Firestone Trust Fund and others have recognized this fact, we've been able to use their contributions to aid hospitals, medical facilities and social agencies in purchasing seats for families in their communities."

CARA Charities will make its first Buckle Up Baby contribution of 2002 when it presents a check for $2,500 to Homestead Hospital near Miami. Al Speyer, executive director of Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports, will join Bogner in making the check presentation March 2 in pre-race activities for the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"The Trust Fund is proud to support CARA Charities and the Buckle Up Baby project," Speyer said. "In addition to providing financial support, we'll be working with CARA Charities to increase public awareness about the importance of having and properly using child safety seats. It's rewarding to know the efforts spearheaded today by CARA Charities and the Bridgestone/Firestone Trust Fund might prevent a serious injury or save a life somewhere down the road."

Firestone is the Official Tire of the Indy Racing League.

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Indy Racing Night scores big: Indy Racing Night was a big success Feb. 23 during the Indiana Pacers-Los Angeles Clippers game Feb. 23 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, as more than 13,000 Indy Racing schedule magnets were distributed to fans.

1996 Indy Racing League co-champion Buzz Calkins and rookie Rick Treadway signed autographs for fans in the IMS Pavilion and acted as honorary scorers during the NBA game.

Calkins and Treadway also participated in the halftime show. Each was paired with two children and raced large tricycles around the court. A Johns Manville Indy Racing car also was on display in the lobby of Conseco Fieldhouse throughout the night.

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Ice links: Indy Racing League standout Robbie Buhl and U.S. women's Olympic hockey team star Angela Ruggiero have something in common: Both play with the Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Old Devils senior men's hockey team in suburban Detroit in the offseason.

Buhl, a Detroit native, played hockey and lacrosse for Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in high school. He was an NCAA Division III All American in lacrosse at New England College in Henneker, N.H.

Ruggiero, from Harper Woods, Mich., recently completed her second Olympics. She was a standout for the U.S. women's team that won the gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics. This year's team won the silver medal. Ruggiero also plays for Harvard University.

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On the air: The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a season preview live from Homestead-Miami Speedway starting at noon (EST) Saturday, March 2. The network's coverage of the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami starts with a pre-race show at 12:30 p.m. March 2 and live race coverage at 1 p.m.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Michael Andretti , Al Unser