Indy opens doors to non-500 for 1st time since '16 AUTO RACING

April 15, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The whine of the Indy car is about to be enhanced by a stock car engine's roar.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500, will hold its first Winston Cup stock car race Aug. 6, 1994.

Speedway president Tony George and NASCAR president Bill France Jr. made the joint announcement yesterday at the famed 2.5-mile track.

It will be the first auto race at the speedway other than the Indianapolis 500 since September 1916.

During the past five years, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing has pushed its premier series north to New York and New Hampshire and west to Phoenix and Sonoma, Calif.

Yesterday, NASCAR took one more step toward solidifying its claim of being a national sport.

"A great milestone," said France.

"The biggest day in speedway history," said George, whose family bought the track in the 1940s.

The race will be 400 miles and will be run on the Saturday date to keep Sunday open as a rain date. Practice at the facility will begin two days before the race.

The purse was not announced, but a report in the Indianapolis Star said the speedway would post a $2.5 million payoff. The Daytona 500 purse, the largest on the Winston Cup circuit to this point, paid $2.4 million last February.

The race is expected to be televised live by either ABC or CBS.

"I think this is great for our sport, to go to a famous place like Indianapolis," said Winston Cup car owner Richard Childress, whose driver Dale Earnhardt is competing for his sixth Winston Cup title. "We tested there and went three-abreast into the first turn. I think we're going to put on a fantastic show and we're all excited."

Childress, who was preparing his car for this Sunday's race at North Wilkesboro, N.C., said he doesn't believe the Winston Cup race will detract from the Indianapolis 500.

"The Indianapolis 500 has a mystique all its own," said Childress. "I get excited watching Indy and I'm sure the fans will get a thrill out of both of us."

That feeling was shared by Walter Czarnecki, executive vice president of Penske Corp. The Penske team is the most successful in Indianapolis 500 history. The corporation also owns Michigan International Speedway, which hosts two Winston Cup stock car races and a 500-mile IndyCar race.

And Roger Penske also is co-owner of the Winston Cup team co-owned and driven by Rusty Wallace.

"Our feeling is it's terrific for motorsports," said Czarnecki. "There are traditionalists who say Indianapolis is Indianapolis is Indianapolis. But stock car racing has evolved into a national sport and like any other pro sport it deserves to stage its events in the most exciting venues.

"I know, I'm supposed to be jaded after being in this business so long, but we're all giddy. Based on the practice run there last June, everyone was thrilled."

Daytona International Speedway draws the largest crowds on the Winston Cup circuit, seating 105,000.

At Indianapolis, the stock cars will have an opportunity to prove just how popular they are. The speedway seats 305,000 and traditional estimates of the Indianapolis 500 crowd reach half-a-million.

"A race in the Midwest, we've never had anything in the Midwest," said Wallace, a native of Fenton, Mo. "The sponsors need it. We'll enjoy it. It's a smooth track and I believe we can fill the place.

"But I'm not into upping the Indianapolis 500. I love the Indy 500. It's exciting. What we do is exciting, too. We don't need a war. I just hope the fans who come enjoy both events."

Taking a break from his working in the garage in Level Cross, N.C., Dale Inman, crew chief on the Richard Petty-owned car, said he wouldn't be surprised if the Winston Cup cars outdraw the Indianapolis 500.

"I don't suppose they'd ever tell us if we did, but if it was true, I'd like our fans and us to get credit," he said. "Considering it's

Indianapolis, I guess you could say this is about as good as it gets."

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