Jun 21, 2007 12:00 PM EDT
IRL founder to compete at Black Rock Speedway
By RON LEVANDUSKI, STAR-GAZETTE
There are many contrasts between the IndyCar Series and the large, paved race complexes it competes on; and the New York Modified Midgets and the small rural dirt tracks it competes on.
The two race worlds will collide in a special celebrity event on the Black Rock Speedway dirt oval in Dundee on July 6.
Tony George, creator of the Indy Racing League and owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will join crew members from some of the biggest teams in his IndyCar Series to compete in a 20-lap match race on the four-tenths-mile dirt oval. P.J. Chesson, a former World of Outlaws Sprint Car driver who ran four IndyCar Series races in 2006, including the Indy 500, is also set to join in on the fun.
It takes place on the same weekend the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series returns to Watkins Glen International for its third annual Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix.
"We've done a number of different promotions over the years for our events, but I think this is an entirely new level of experience for our teams," said John Griffin, vice president of public relations for the IRL said Wednesday from Indianapolis. "It should be an exciting and fun event."
It's patterned after the type of event Black Rock has run with the NASCAR teams on the Nextel Cup at the Glen weekend in August.
"It's the first time we've done something like this for an IndyCar Series event," said ABC-ESPN reporter Jack Arute from his Suffield, Conn. home on Wednesday. "We have a full field of 20 to 24 guys from teams like Andretti Green Racing, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. Many of them have run on dirt tracks in the past."
Arute, the voice in the pits of Indy-type open-wheel racing for the past 23 years, helped coordinate the event with Black Rock owner Dean Hoag and NYMM series owner Jim Morgan.
"The whole concept is that, since the race crews normally live in such obscurity, we thought we'd give them some recognition on a race weekend," Arute said. "It's great that Dean and Jim have opened this up for them."
Arute, who owns Stafford Motor Speedway, the asphalt short track in Stafford Springs, Conn., will also compete in the celebrity race and possibly the NYMM series regular 25-lap event at Black Rock that night.
Team personnel are the unsung heroes of a race weekend, putting in many hours of preparation for a few hours of track time for their drivers. Arute said some of their owners and drivers are likely to be on hand to cheer them on.
"Sarah Fisher (driver of the No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing IndyCar) told me she plans on attending," Arute said. "If the teams don't have a difficult day (at the Glen), I expect other drivers will also show up to watch."
Arute said team contracts prevent the IndyCar Series racers from competing in the event.
Bus transportation is being provided for the racing crew members. The winged Modified Midgets, powered by 600cc motorcycle engines, look like smaller scale sprint cars and achieve speeds around 110 mph.