IRL Goes Global In 2003

The Indy Racing League added just one new track to its 2003 schedule, which was released over the weekend. But that one track was significant enough – Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

The addition of the race came as no surprise, as IRL officials announced the race when Honda said it was joining the series in May. However, the choice of the date of the race was still undecided – until now. The IRL’s first international race in its eight-year history will take place April 13, 2003.

Homestead-Miami Speedway will play host to the first event of the 2003 season with an ABC-televised event on Sunday, March 2. The season will end with an ESPN-televised race, the Chevy 500 on Sunday, Oct. 12 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"Though we're just over halfway through the 2002 schedule, it's exciting to look ahead to 2003," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indy Racing League. "The lineup of tracks represents the finest motorsports facilities in the country, and we are also now in position to take the best form of American open-wheel racing to the League's partners and fans in Japan."

All but one of the events - Japan - will be broadcast live on TV. ABC will televise 10 live races, while ESPN will cover five events live. All three of the night races in 2003 will be on ESPN.

The 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be Sunday, May 25 and televised live on ABC.

Though most of the events remain on their traditional dates, there have been a few schedule date changes.

"Some of the League's events have developed traditional dates, and we are keeping most events on or near those weekends," said Ken Ungar, vice president of business affairs for the IRL. "Our goal was to build on a schedule, which was the product of years of steady growth. With a few minor tweaks, the 2003 schedule offers even more excitement and value for fans, promoters, sponsors and participants."

The Nazareth event moves from an April date to Aug. 24, while the race at California Speedway moves from its spring date to Sept. 21.

Texas Motor Speedway maintains its traditional spots on the schedule, which include playing host to the first race after the Indianapolis 500 and the last race of the season.

"We've worked really hard on developing a schedule that maintains fan interest throughout the season while not creating unrealistic workloads on teams and officials," said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League vice president of operations. "By achieving those goals with this schedule, the end result is better racing, and that's what we're here to do."

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