SPEEDWAY, Ind. (Nov. 16, 2001) - Miller Brewing Company announced today that it would return to the Indianapolis 500, May 26, 2002, for the 86th running of the world's most famous race, as primary sponsor of Team Rahal and veteran driver Jimmy ...
SPEEDWAY, Ind. (Nov. 16, 2001) - Miller Brewing Company announced today that it would return to the Indianapolis 500, May 26, 2002, for the 86th running of the world's most famous race, as primary sponsor of Team Rahal and veteran driver Jimmy Vasser.
Vasser, a six-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 (1992-95 and 2000-01), will drive the Miller Lite open-wheel machine for car owners Bobby Rahal and Dave Letterman and their successful Hilliard, Ohio-based Team Rahal. Both Rahal and Letterman have close ties to Indianapolis -- Rahal won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and Letterman attended numerous Indy 500s while growing up in nearby Broad Ripple.
Vasser, 36, has recorded two fourth-place finishes -- in 1994 with Hayhoe Racing and in 2001 with Chip Ganassi Racing -- in his six Indianapolis 500 starts. The California native has won a pair of 500-mile events during his career, with victories at the 1996 U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway and the 1998 Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway.
Team Rahal was formed when Letterman became a co-owner of the race team with Rahal. The team traces its origin to Rahal/Hogan Racing of which Rahal was co-owner and driver and which competed at the Speedway from 1992 to 1995 with Miller Genuine Draft sponsorship.
"Miller Brewing is pleased to return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2002," said Mike Welsh, Miller Brewing Company's director of event marketing. "It's the most famous auto racing event in the world and having Team Rahal and Jimmy Vasser in the race gives our Miller Lite brand an outstanding opportunity to win this prestigious event. Miller has a great heritage at the Indy 500 and we believe that Bobby, Dave and the whole Team Rahal organization will produce a competitive effort next May. We look forward to it being 'Miller Time' in Indianapolis."
Rahal, a three-time CART champion and two-time Driver of the Year, drove in 13 Indianapolis 500s. In 1986, he captured the checkered flag at the Brickyard, and he also recorded one second (1990) and two third-place finishes (1994 and 1995) at the Speedway.
"The Indy 500 is an American tradition and we are very proud to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again with Miller Brewing," said Rahal. "Miller also has been a tradition at the Speedway and bringing them back, as well as David, to this hallowed ground is very special. Having a tremendous driver like Jimmy behind the wheel for Team Rahal and Miller Lite means we will be among the top contenders for the coveted Borg Warner Trophy."
Letterman, host of CBS-TV's "Late Show with David Letterman," grew up in the Indianapolis area and attended the 500-mile race as a youngster. The 2002 Indy 500 marks the first time Letterman will be involved in the race as a car owner.
"To be part of a team racing at Indianapolis is the kind of thing I dreamed about as a kid," said Letterman. "I couldn't hope to be in better company than Team Rahal. This is what springtime in Indiana is all about."
Vasser, who captured the CART driver's championship in 1996, has made 167 starts in his open wheel career. In addition to his series title, Vasser has recorded nine victories and seven pole positions and has proven to be one of the most consistent and versatile drivers in open-wheel racing today.
"I have raced in the Indianapolis 500 and there isn't another event like it in the world," said Vasser. "The chance to race at Indy and represent not only a great company like Miller Brewing but a great team like Team Rahal is an honor. I think Bobby and Dave have assembled the elements to be successful next May."
The 2002 racing season marks the 30th year that Miller Brewing has been a sponsor in open-wheel competition dating back to 1973 in the United States Auto Club (USAC) and the Indianapolis 500. Since its first involvement in open wheel competition, Miller Indy and Championship cars have won 17 races including the 1985 Indy 500 (with Danny Sullivan), 19 pole positions and two CART season championships (with Danny Sullivan in 1988 and Bobby Rahal in 1992). The 'Indy 500 Pit Stop Contest' also was sponsored by Miller for 18 years.
Miller Brewing Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Philip Morris Companies Inc. Principal beer brands include Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Genuine Draft Light, Miller High Life, and Milwaukee's Best. Primary products from the Plank Road Brewery, a small division of Miller, include ICEHOUSE and Red Dog. Specialty regional brands include Leinenkugel's Henry Weinhard's, and the company malt liquor brands include Olde English 800 and Mickey's Malt Liquor. Miller also imports Foster's and brews Sharp's, a non-alcohol brew. More information is available at www.MillerBrewing.com <http://www.MillerBrewing.com> and www.MillerLite.com