IRL: Hemelgarn returns to MIS

Brooklyn, Mich. -- Championship Indy Racing League team owner Ron Hemelgarn will return to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway with the Indy Racing League July 28. The inaugural Michigan Indy 400 will mark Hemelgarn's first appearance at...

Brooklyn, Mich. -- Championship Indy Racing League team owner Ron Hemelgarn will return to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway with the Indy Racing League July 28. The inaugural Michigan Indy 400 will mark Hemelgarn's first appearance at the historical oval in a decade.

"It is always exciting to run Michigan since I consider it to be my home track," Hemelgarn said. "For years I ran two or three cars at Michigan but then I left the CART series and headed for the Indy Racing League. Now, ten years later, I'm back and looking for great success."

Hemelgarn, a longtime resident of LaSalle, Mich., is an entrepreneur in the fitness industry with offices in Toledo, Ohio. Living just 40 short minutes east of the track, nothing gives him greater pleasure than to show off his talented stable of drivers that include Indy Racing League star Buddy Lazier and Infiniti Pro Series drivers Aaron Fike and Cory Witherill.

"It is very exciting being the only IRL team based out of NW Ohio/SE Michigan. Living in the area, we have thousands of fans to cheer us on."

A veteran of the open-wheel scene, Hemelgarn has participated in various racing series since 1978. He bought his first Indy Car team in 1984 and joined forces with team manager Lee Kunzman. Together the dynamic duo has achieved much success and fostered some of the best drivers in the business.

Hemelgarn achieved the pinnacle of success when driver Lazier captured the most coveted prizes in motorsports, the 1996 Indianapolis 500. Four years later, Lazier would give Hemelgarn his first Indy Racing League championship title after earning two victories. The Hemelgarn team and Lazier returned in 2001, winning a record four races and narrowly missing a back-to-back title. Together their outstanding performances have earned them a record eight Indy Racing League victories and 36 Top-10 finishes in 65 starts.

But Hemelgarn and Lazier have a history that began well before the inception of the Indy Racing League in 1996.

"The last time Hemelgarn Racing participated at Michigan was in 1992 when the first purple Hemelgarn race car was unveiled. We finished seventh with Buddy behind the wheel."

Purple has since become the signature color for Hemelgarn Racing. Lazier will drive the purple and silver No. 91 Coors Light/TaeBo/Life Fitness/Delta Faucet/Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone in the Michigan Indy 400 Sunday July 28. The event is slated for a 3:00 pm (EDT) start with live televised coverage on ABC.

In addition to Lazier, Hemelgarn will field two cars in the new developmental Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series. Navajo Cory Witherill will drive the purple and white No. 92 WSA Healthcare/Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone entry. Teammate Aaron Fike, 19, will climb into the cockpit of the purple and silver No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing/Dallara/Infiniti-powered chassis.

And these upcoming drivers have wasted no time making their mark. Witherill, the only full-blooded Native American in professional open-wheel racing, won the second Infiniti Pro Series event July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway. He heads to Michigan leading the series championship point standings. Fike, a USAC standout, earned his first podium at Nashville, finishing third after charging from the rear of the field.

The 100-mile Infiniti Pro Series "sprint" starts at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, July 28. Televised coverage of the event will be broadcast August 15 at 6:00 pm (EDT) on ESPN2.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Cory Witherill , Aaron Fike