FORT WORTH, Texas (Sept. 19, 2003) – Bridgestone/Firestone and Texas Motor Speedway are teaming up to sponsor the Firestone Heroes of Indy, an all-star race featuring former Indy 500 winners competing in identically prepared “Thunder Roadsters” prior to the Indy Racing League's season finale at the Texas track Oct. 12.
The inaugural Heroes of Indy race will pit 10 legendary Indy-car drivers in a 25-lap showdown driving the Thunder Roadsters — resembling the front-engine Indy-car-style roadsters of the 1950s and 1960s, but powered by a 1,250cc Yamaha motorcycle engine — on a quarter-mile paved oval within the 1.5-mile Texas speedway main oval. The cars will run on standard Firestone Firehawk SZ50 EP (extra performance) street tires in size 225/60ZR15 for the event, said Joe Barbieri, project supervisor for Firestone Racing.
“Those tires haven't been altered in any way,” Mr. Barbieri said. “These are the same tires consumers can buy at any Firestone retailer.”
Drivers scheduled to compete are: three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford; two-time winner Gordon Johncock; 1963 victor Parnelli Jones; 1985 pole sitter Pancho Carter; and veteran Indy 500 competitors Billy Vukovich II, Jim McElreath, and Lloyd Ruby. Messrs. Rutherford, McElreath and Ruby are Texans, as is four-time winner A.J. Foyt, who will serve as grand marshal for the event. Fellow four-time winner Al Unser will drive the pace car.
“With our heritage at the Indianapolis 500 and with most drivers having driven on Firestones, the Firestone Heroes of Indy race is a perfect fit,” Mr. Barbieri said.
The event will take place immediately before the IRL's season-ending Chevy 500 race. Firestone supplies the racing tires to all competitors in the IRL IndyCar Series.
“The Firestone Heroes of Indy race will be an opportunity to honor the sport's legendary names on the very day we crown the 2003 IRL champion,” said Texas Motor Speedway General Manager Eddie Gossage, in a prepared statement.