Jonathan Byrd's roots in the Indianapolis racing scene run deep and are spread throughout the landscape of Hoosier racing. Byrd started first as a fan and then as a car owner of local stock cars at the Indianapolis Speedrome then stepped up...
Jonathan Byrd's roots in the Indianapolis racing scene run deep and are spread throughout the landscape of Hoosier racing. Byrd started first as a fan and then as a car owner of local stock cars at the Indianapolis Speedrome then stepped up to back open-wheel star Rich Vogler on the USAC circuit and the Indy 500 and was a pivotal player in the early days of the Indy Racing League. Byrd hasn't forgotten his roots and has returned to the Speedrome to back the richest event in the track's 60 years, the 25th Annual World Championship 3-Hour Figure-8 Endurance Race.
"The Speedrome has always been my racing home and the 3-Hour is the biggest thing we do out here," said Byrd. "It's our Indy, our Brickyard, our Daytona all rolled into one."
This year's running of the World Championship carries a bonus of $25,000 to the winner out of a $70,000 purse to mark the quarter-century running. It's the Speedrome's biggest payout ever and the largest in figure-8 racing history. The big payoff is attracting big attention nationwide.
"You've got guys coming in from New York, Florida, Washington State, Michigan, Kentucky . . . all over. This is the biggest thing for these guys ever," added Byrd when announcing his backing of the event through his Greenwood, Indiana cafeteria. "The payoff for tenth in this race is better than most of these guys make for a season so they definitely want to be a part of this."
This year's running is a three-day affair with a Thursday, September 6th, evening open practice, qualifying races on Friday and the Big One on Saturday night. Over 100 cars are expected for Saturday due to a unique format that gives all qualifiers a chance at earning purse monies.
The race will start 28 cars determined from qualifying and Friday's preliminaries but will add new cars as attrition takes its toll. In years past as many as 80 cars have participated in the event. The format encourages a variety of racers, classes and levels to compete making the closing minutes of the event a montage of cars and styles from sleek, exotic specialized late models to the local Street Stock- or Bomber-type.
Byrd has been part of the 3-Hour going back to the early-80's with Jim Begley and former track and 3-Hour champs Mike St. John and Bruce Tunny. When Byrd hooked up with Rich Vogler in the mid-80's it began an Indy-car tradition for the local racer that culminated in his backing of the Indy Racing League. Byrd had kept his hand in at his "home" track with sponsorships of racers and the pre-3-Hour qualifying races. In recent years Byrd's son Jonathan has taken to the track and was the 2000 champion in the fledgling Baby Grand division.