The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Four Open Wheel Aces Join True Value Firebird IROC Field

27 January 1998

TINTON FALLS, N.J. -- Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, Indy Racing League titlist Tony Stewart, and former CART PPG Cup champs Al Unser Jr. and Jimmy Vasser today accepted invitations to drive in the True Value Firebird International Race of Champions.

Al Unser, Jr. makes another IROC appearance
Al Unser, Jr. makes another IROC appearance

The four-race IROC series, beginning Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Fla., matches a dozen of the world's top drivers, representing different types of motorsports, in equally prepared Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams equipped with Goodyear Eagle radial tires. The schedule also includes events May 2, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif., June 13, Michigan Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich., and July 31, the first IROC race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Luyendyk, a native of Holland now residing in Scottsdale, Ariz., became a two-time Indy 500 winner in 1997 after starting on the pole. He also won the race in 1990. Luyendyk competed in the full IRL series and his victory in Texas made him the tour's only two-time winner, good for sixth in points, and led all drivers with over $2 million in prize money. This will be his third I ROC appearance.

Stewart, of Rushville, Ind., captured the IRL championship with a triumph at Colorado's new Pike's Peak track, He topped the circuit in poles and led 812 laps, 690 more than any other driver, en route to almost $1.1 million in purses. Widely regarded as one of America's most versatile racers, Stewart also won nine features in various USAC divisions, and entered the NASCAR Busch Series and placed third at Charlotte.

"I've had a chance to test the IROC cars before, but not race one," said Stewart, who will make his series debut. "IROC is a really neat deal and the chance to race against the best drivers from some of the other series will be a great experience for me."

Unser Jr., of Albuquerque, N.M., returns for his record 13th consecutive IROC series and won the Daytona event last year. The 1986 and 1988 champion, he is IROC's all-time leader with 11 wins. A two-time Indy 500 and PPG Cup title-holder, Unser earned just over $600,000 in prize money last season and finished 13th in the CART rankings.

Vasser, a California native now residing in Las Vegas, will participate in IROC for the second consecutive season. The 1996 PPG Cup titlist was third in the 1997 standings with a win at Laguna Seca and four other top-5 results. His streak of 25 straight finishes ended at Portland when he was hit by another car late in the event. Vasser's earnings topped $1.1 million.

These four join previously announced Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton in the IROC lineup. Series President Jay Signore said the final group of drivers will be announced next week.

NASCAR Drivers: Martin, Burton, Jarrett and Gordon

ABC Sports will again televise all four IROC contests on a delayed basis.

IROC is sponsored by True Value Hardware Stores; Pontiac division of General Motors Corp.; Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.; DuPont Automotive Refinishes; and AC Delco Rapidfire spark plugs and Freedom batteries.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in the Visions of Speed Art Gallery and the Racing Image Galleries from The Callahan Racing Page.