IRL: Michigan race sponsor named

BROOKLYN, Mich. --When Al Unser parked in Michigan International Speedway's victory lane in September of 1974, he had no idea that he would be part of Firestone history. Unser just happened to be the last driver to win an open-wheel race on ...

BROOKLYN, Mich. --When Al Unser parked in Michigan International Speedway's victory lane in September of 1974, he had no idea that he would be part of Firestone history. Unser just happened to be the last driver to win an open-wheel race on Firestone tires before their initial exit from racing at the end of the 1974 season.

Fast forward 21 years later to the site of Unser's final victory and a place that has been known for its great open-wheel finishes during its storied 35-year history, Michigan International Speedway. In 1995, Scott Pruett edged out Al Unser Jr. by .056 seconds, which was the second closest race in open-wheel history at the time. Firestone -- making its return to open-wheel racing in 1995 -- captured its first open-wheel triumph since the company returned to racing at the beginning of the 1995 season with Pruett behind the wheel of the Firestone sponsored car for Jackson, Michigan businessman Pat Patrick. Including that historical July day in 1995, Firestone has gone on to capture 698 documented open-wheel victories and is the only tire to compete in all 79 IRL IndyCar Series races since the series' inception in 1996.

Officials at both companies announced today that Firestone will return to the site of their comeback win, but this time as the title sponsor of the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series race at Michigan International Speedway. The Firestone Indy 400 will be run on Sunday July 27, and will be the exciting climax to an action packed weekend at the two-mile superspeedway in Michigan's Irish Hills.

"Becoming title sponsor for the IndyCar Series event at a track with such a rich racing history as Michigan International Speedway makes us very proud," said Al Speyer, Firestone Racing executive director. "MIS has long been known as one of the most challenging and exciting superspeedways in the United States and we are pleased that the Firestone Indy 400 will take place there. Starting with Scott Pruett's memorable victory in 1995, Firestone has won at MIS every time we've raced there in this modern era. We look forward to adding another name to our MIS winner's list on July 27, this time for the Firestone Indy 400."

"It's an honor to have a series sponsor that has supported and grown with the IRL since the very beginning," said MIS President Brett Shelton. "Firestone's commitment to in-market promotions will only help bring awareness to the event."

The July weekend at MIS will once again feature live music, carnival rides and a Corvette show, free with a daily grandstand ticket all weekend in the MIS infield. All seats for the Firestone Indy 400 are only $40, or fans can purchase a combination ticket for both Saturday and Sunday for just $50. The combo ticket includes the Saturday, July 26 Sears 200 along with the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 400 and the Infiniti Pro Series races on Sunday July 27. Children 12 and under are free all weekend. Seats are still available for all remaining 2003 events at MIS, including the new mid-summer classic, the Firestone Indy 400. For ticket information, visit MIS' official website, www.MISpeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at (800) 354-1010.

Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC is a subsidiary of Bridgestone/Firestone Americas Holding, Inc., whose parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is the world's largest tire and rubber company. BFNT develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton and associate and private brand tires. The company is focused on wholesale and original equipment markets, supplying passenger, light truck, commercial vehicle, off-road, agriculture and other tires to its customers in North America.

MIS is owned by International Speedway Corporation, a leading promoter of motorsports activities in the United States, currently promoting more than 100 events annually. The company owns and/or operates 12 major motorsports facilities, including Daytona International Speedway in Florida (home of the Daytona 500): Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama; California Speedway near Los Angeles, California; Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida; Kansas

Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas; Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona; Richmond International Raceway in Virginia, Darlington Raceway in South Carolina; North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina; Watkins Glen International in New York; and Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania. Other track interests include an indirect 37.5 percent interest in Raceway Associates, LLC, which owns and operates Chicagoland Speedway and the Route 66 Raceway near Chicago, Illinois. The Company also owns and operates MRN Radio, the nation's largest independent sports radio network; DAYTONA USA, the "Ultimate Motorsports Attraction" in Daytona Beach, Florida, the official attraction of NASCAR; and subsidiaries which provide catering services, food and beverage concessions, and produce and market motorsports-related merchandise under the trade name "Americrown." For more information, visit the Company's website at www.iscmotorsports.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Pruett , Al Unser