IRL: Seasons to change to claendar years

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 9, 1996 -- The Indy Racing League's current season, which began with the Aug. 18 True Value 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, will now end with the final race of the 1997 calendar year. The announcement was made...

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 9, 1996 -- The Indy Racing League's current season, which began with the Aug. 18 True Value 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, will now end with the final race of the 1997 calendar year. The announcement was made today by IRL executive director Jack Long.

"This is something the team owners unanimously support," Long said. "Given the calendar-year nature of sponsors' financial planning, this will help IRL teams meet their sponsors' objectives."

The IRL's inaugural championship season ended with the 1996 Indianapolis 500 in May. Its second season championship will include the 1996 events at New Hampshire and Las Vegas, plus all 1997 IRL races. Beginning in 1998, the IRL will operate on a calendar-year basis.

The IRL points systems, qualifying protocols and prize money distribution remain unchanged.

The 1997 IRL schedule currently includes the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World (Jan. 25), a 200-miler at Phoenix International Raceway (March 23), the Indianapolis 500 (May 25), a 500- kilometer race at the new Texas International Raceway (June 7) and a race at the new Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado Springs (June 29). Races at New Hampshire and Las Vegas are confirmed with dates to be announced. Long added that more races could appear on the schedule.

"We have some very attractive options that we will be firming up soon," Long said.

The current IRL driver points leader, with 63, is Mike Groff of Jonathan Byrd-Cunningham Racing. Team Scandia driver Michele Alboreto and 1996 IRL co-champion and Bradley Motorsports driver Buzz Calkins are tied for second with 62 points each. Roberto Guerrero, of Pagan Racing, is fourth with 60 points. Thirty different drivers currently hold IRL championship points. The IRL also awards a separate championship to car entrants, which is currently led by Jonathan Byrd-Cunningham Racing.

Calkins and Scott Sharp were the IRL's driver co-champions during the three-race 1996 title chase at Walt Disney World, Phoenix and Indy. AJ Foyt Enterprises won the entrant title with its Conseco Lola-Ford Cosworth driven by Sharp at Phoenix and Indy. Groff had driven the car in the inaugural IRL race at Disney.

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