IRL: Indy Racing Weekly Notebook 2002-04-11

Marlboro to sponsor Lap Leader Award; Fisher released from contract. INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 11, 2002 - Philip Morris U.S.A. announced it will sponsor the Marlboro Lap Leader Award in 2002 as part of the company's sponsorship commitment to...

Marlboro to sponsor Lap Leader Award; Fisher released from contract.

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 11, 2002 - Philip Morris U.S.A. announced it will sponsor the Marlboro Lap Leader Award in 2002 as part of the company's sponsorship commitment to the Indy Racing League.

The Lap Leader Award began in 1997 and was designed to recognize the driver who leads the most laps during each of the 15 Indy Racing League events. The $100,000 program consists of a $5,000 award each race to the driver who leads the most laps, an additional $15,000 bonus for leading the most laps at the Indianapolis 500 and a $10,000 bonus for leading the most laps overall during the 2002 season.

"We're very pleased to announce Philip Morris U.S.A.'s participation in the IRL Lap Leader Award program for the 2002 IRL season," said Ina Broeman, category director, Marlboro. "As part of our new sponsorship in the IRL series, we're glad that the opportunity was available to take ownership of this seasonwide program. When joining the IRL, one of our goals was to participate in a program that recognizes outstanding achievement on a race-by-race basis, and we feel this program meets with our objectives."

The driver who leads the most laps in a race will receive a check for $5,000 that will be presented during the pre-race ceremonies at the following race. Since Sam Hornish Jr. led the most laps at the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami, the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 and the Yamaha Indy 400, he will be the first recipient of the award. The $15,000 check will be presented at the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21 at Nazareth Speedway.

"We are pleased that Philip Morris U.S.A. has decided to participate in the Lap Leader Award," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indy Racing League. "It is an award coveted by teams, as it recognizes and rewards those who push the competition to the highest level, both for each race, as well as for the championship."

Journalists will have the opportunity to participate in the Marlboro Lap Leader Award program by entering an on-site contest to predict who will lead the most laps in a given race.

Ballots will be available in the media center starting with the Firestone Indy 225 and continuing at each event (with the exception of Michigan). The journalist who correctly predicts the lap leader and is closest to the number of laps led, will be awarded a stainless steel "Siras" sports watch, courtesy of Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watches.

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Fisher released from contract: Indy Racing driver Sarah Fisher and team owner Derrick Walker have agreed to end their partnership, effective immediately.

Fisher, who won the IRL's most popular driver award during the 2001 season, drove for Walker Racing in 2000 and 2001. The team has not competed in 2002 due to a lack of sponsorship.

"Derrick Walker and I have agreed to go our separate ways," Fisher said. "During the time I was there, Walker Racing almost became a second family for me. But we haven't been racing in the IRL this season, and that is what I need to do. I learned an enormous amount during my time at Walker Racing, and I will always be grateful to Derrick for that."

Fisher recorded a career-best finish of second in 2001 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Also while with Walker Racing, Fisher earned a front-row start in 2001 at Richmond and her first podium finish, third, in 2000 at Kentucky Speedway.

Since she first began driving in the IRL, Fisher has been featured on numerous high-profile television shows, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Live! With Regis and Kelly," "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," "ABC Evening News," "CBS News this Morning" and HBO's "RealSports with Bryant Gumbel." High-profile magazines that have covered Fisher include: Sports Illustrated, People, Teen People, Cosmo Girl, ESPN Magazine, Mademoiselle, Glamour and Indianapolis Monthly along with many other national and local publications.

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Indyracing.com continues growth: Indy Racing Online, the official Web site of the Indy Racing League, continues to grow at a rapid pace. March 2002 was the second-best month in the history of the site.

With three events in March at Homestead-Miami, Phoenix and Fontana, Calif., fans recorded 64 million hits and 19 million page views. By comparison, there were 21 million hits and 7 million page views in March 2001.

Statistics also show the site is now drawing 10 percent of its audience from overseas, with the largest international following in Japan.

Only one month in Indy Racing Online's history - May 2001 - has been busier than March 2002. That month, of course, is reserved on the Indy Racing League's annual calendar for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The entire motorsports world turns its attention to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May for three weeks of practice and qualifying leading to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

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It's a small world, after all: Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chief Engineer Andy Brown and Crew Chief Simon Morley were born and reared in Portsmouth, England, on the southwest coast of the country.

Yet Brown and Morley never met until both went to work for the Pennzoil Panther Racing team in Indianapolis.

"We grew up about 3 miles from each other," Brown said. "Just shows what a small world it is. My father was in the Royal Navy. His father was in the Navy, too, and they both knew each other. We had never met."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Tony George , Philip Morris , Jay Leno , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing