IRL Expands Program

The Indy Racing League Leaders Circle will expand in car count and benefits in 2003, significantly increasing the package of equipment, supplies and services available to full-time teams for the 2003 season.

Teams were notified Dec. 3 of the 2003 guidelines for the program, which require applications to be submitted by Dec. 11 to Brian Barnhart, IRL senior vice president of operations.

The Leaders Circle, which was established Jan. 18, 2002, provides incentives to teams that commit to participate in all 16 Indy Racing League events in 2003. The program leverages relationships built by the sanctioning body with partners, sponsors and suppliers and gives the benefits directly to the teams.

After positive feedback during the program’s inaugural season, league officials are working to expand the program to provide unprecedented benefits to teams in 2003.

“The Leaders Circle was first introduced at the beginning of last season and was very well received,” Barnhart said. “Our goal has always been to control costs and to provide opportunity for teams to be competitive, regardless of the size of their budgets. Continuing the Leaders Circle is another way to provide support to teams as the league grows.

“The 2003 Leaders Circle will include the benefits provided in 2002 and additional benefits to be announced at a later date. We also are evaluating the possibility of increasing the number of positions from 24 to 26. Based on the inquiries we have received in the past few weeks, we expect the number of applications to be much larger than we can accommodate. We will spend much of December and January narrowing the list to 26.”

Selection is based on establishing the best field possible for the 2003 Indy Racing League season. Some of the factors are: past IRL performance, past performance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, past performance in other racing series, financial ability, best interest of competition, ability to sustain high-caliber performance throughout the 2003 season and the driver’s ability and experience.

The foundation of the Leaders Circle program is a multiyear, exclusive agreement with Firestone, making Firestone support available to Leaders Circle cars for all Indy Racing League events, including the Indianapolis 500. Along with the Firestone benefits and others to be announced later, the members of the Leaders Circle will qualify for at least the following benefits: electronics package, welding equipment and supplies, discount on fuel costs and discounted entry fee package.

Participants in the Leaders Circle program for the 2003 season are expected to be announced at the Test in the West on Feb. 3-4 at California Speedway. Other elements may be added to the 2003 Leaders Circle program and will be announced when finalized.

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