Gil de Ferran retired as a race driver earlier this month, but there will be hundreds of thousands of reminders of the greatest victory of his career in the hands of Indianapolis 500 fans next year.

2003 Indianapolis 500 winner De Ferran is the centrepiece of the colourful, elegant design for the 2004 Indianapolis 500 ticket. De Ferran and "Entertainment Tonight" reporter Maria Menounos unveiled the design, which features de Ferran celebrating with the winner's traditional wreath and drink of milk, during a ceremony Oct. 15 at Fountain Square Theatre in Indianapolis.

The "Lights! Camera! Traction!" theme for the 2004 Indianapolis 500 also was announced at the ceremony. The 88th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 and will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network.

"It's a great honour for me," de Ferran said of his likeness on the ticket. "If you look back, next year's going to be the 88th running of the Indy 500, and it's incredible to be part of the history and the tradition and that legacy of auto racing. So it's a great honour for me and for any driver who gets to put his face on the ticket."

De Ferran defeated Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves by .2990 of a second in the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25. It was de Ferran's first victory in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

The previous year's winning driver has been featured on the Indianapolis 500 ticket every year since 1948, except for the 1982 race ticket, which featured a stylised design. De Ferran joins 1957 winner Sam Hanks as the only driver on the ticket who announced that he was retiring from the sport and would not return to defend his title the following May.

But de Ferran doesn't feel mixed emotions about his retirement, even after seeing his likeness on the ticket.

"I don't feel that way at all, primarily because I never felt that racing had to do with defending anything," de Ferran said. "In racing, everybody starts with the same chance, and you've got to attack all day long.

"I've been in a similar situation in the past, and I never felt like I was defending because I've never felt like it was mine to lose. It was mine to win again."

 

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