Indy Racing League fans planning to visit the Texas Motor Speedway for the season-ending Chevy 500 will also get to enjoy a very special support race, featuring ten of the sport's biggest names at Indianapolis down the years.

Triple Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will head the entry list for the first 'Firestone Heroes of Indy,' a 25-lap showdown in identically-prepared Thunder Roadsters on a quarter-mile paved oval prior to the IRL IndyCar Series season-finale

"The Firestone Heroes of Indy race will be an opportunity to honour the sport's legendary names on the very day we crown the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series champion," said Texas Motor Speedway General Manager Eddie Gossage. "Indy-car racing enjoys a rich heritage that is unparalleled in American motorsports, and the drivers competing in this event have written page after page into our sport's history book. These men are giants in the sports world, and to get them all together again offers all of us a unique privilege.

The Texas contingent of drivers were introduced at a press conference earlier this week at Texas Motor Speedway and include Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, along with four-time Indianapolis 500 victor A.J. Foyt, who will serve as the event's grand marshal.

Rutherford is in charge of special projects for the Indy Racing League and drives the pace car at nearly all events. Foyt owns A.J. Foyt Racing and fields an IndyCar Series car for 2002 Infiniti Pro Series champion A.J. Foyt IV, his grandson.

Texans Lloyd Ruby and Jim McElreath also are expected to participate in the Firestone Heroes of Indy race. Ruby scored seven Indy-style victories and led the Indianapolis 500 five times but never scored a victory. McElreath finished third in the 1966 "500" and won the inaugural California 500 in 1970 at Ontario Motor Speedway.

"We've spoken to some of the most famous Indy-car drivers from around the world, but this first set of drivers is special to us because all of them are from Texas," Gossage said. "We believe the reason our two IRL IndyCar races draw the largest crowds of the season outside of the Indy 500 is because of the rich heritage Texas has in Indy-car racing. In large part, that history and heritage is due to these three men."

The remaining Firestone Heroes of Indy participants will be announced shortly.

The Thunder Roadsters that will be used by the drivers are produced by 600 Racing and resemble the roadsters that dominated the Indianapolis 500 and Indy-style racing through the 1950s and 1960s. The cars are powered by a 1250cc Yamaha engine and will be sporting special Firestone Firehawk tires for the event.

"For nearly 100 years, Firestone has been involved in competition at the highest levels of motorsports," said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing. "More Indy 500 winners have crossed the finish line on Firestone tires than all other tire companies combined. We are proud to be associated with some of the greatest drivers in history and are honoured to have the opportunity to pay tribute to these men who have contributed so much to the sport."

The Firestone Heroes of Indy will include a full weekend of activities celebrating the accomplishments of drivers who established much of the history of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to practice and qualifying for the race, the participants will participate in autograph sessions open to the public and a special Heroes reception featuring "Mom" Unser's fabled chilli, a long-time tradition with participants at the Indianapolis 500.

 

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