CART: Motorola 300 Results May 23, 1998 Madison, Ill, May 23, 1998: Rain curtailed practice and qualifying, but a window of clear weather allowed the sixth race in the FedEx Championship Series to take place on schedule. With concern over...
CART: Motorola 300 Results May 23, 1998
Madison, Ill, May 23, 1998:
Rain curtailed practice and qualifying, but a window of clear weather allowed the sixth race in the FedEx Championship Series to take place on schedule.
With concern over excessive speeds in last year's race, CART mandated the smaller superspeedway wings this time around. Speeds were reduced by about 10 mph. There were concerns that the reduced grip would cause passing to be more difficult. This concern proved to be correct. The running order among the top ten changed very rarely during the race. There were many more "almost" passes than actual passes.
Qualifying, scheduled for Friday, was rained out. The weather cleared enough on Saturday to allow a morning warmup, and a three hour window opened for the scheduled race time.
With qualifying rained out, 28 cars lined up according to their practice times from Thursday, with Greg Moore and Jimmy Vasser on the front row. When the green fell, Vasser used his outside position to take the early lead. Michael Andretti also found the high side to his liking, as he moved from sixth to third in Turns 1 and 2. Robbie Gordon moved from 14th to eighth, while Christian Fittipaldi vaulted from 13th to 5th.
The action was interrupted on the first lap when Dario Franchitti spun in Turn 4, ending his day on the outside wall and collecting Richie Hearn and Franchitti's teammate Paul Tracy. All three were finished. Patrick Carpentier and Christian Fittpaldi were also involved, but continued on after pitting for repairs.
The green flew on Lap 12, with Vasser in the lead,followed by Moore, Andretti, Tony Kanaan, J. J. Lehto, Gil de Ferran, Bryan Herta, Robby Gordon, Adrian Fernandez, and Al Unser Jr. Action was interrupted on Lap 15 when Dennis Vitolo pounded the front stretch wall. By that time Alex Zanardi had moved into eighth place, up from his 11th place start.
After seven laps of cleanup, racing resumed on Lap 23. 25 laps of green flag racing followed. Vasser extended a comfortable lead, while Andretti slowly caught Moore, then took second place on the low side on Lap 40. Three laps later Vasser's lead evaporated, then was gone as Andretti passed him on the front stretch to take first place.
Tony Kanaan's smooth run in fourth place ended after 48 laps with hard contact against the turn three wall. Complaining of some neck pain, Kanaan was transported to the hospital for X-rays.
The yellow came inside the fuel window, and all the leaders took advantage of this. The three leaders emerged with order unchanged, while Zanardi moved up several places, into fourth. When the green flew after 61 laps, Zanardi took the low side past Moore in Turns 1 and 2, then under Vasser in 3 and 4, emerging in second place. Lehto soon passed Unser, moving into eighth.
The order among the top ten (Andretti, Zanardi, Vasser, Moore, Fernandez, Lehto, de Ferran, Pruett, Castro-Neves and Rahal) remained the same for the next 45 laps, with gaps varying but no passes working. Michael extended his lead, and by 100 laps was nearly half a lap ahead of Alex. Traffic was spread out, and generally not a problem for the leaders.
On the 106th lap Andretti encountered a pack of lapped cars. A lap later, he got past them at the end of the front stretch. Just after he was clear, Papis and Meier (both running three laps behind at the time) came together in Turn 1, hitting the wall with a spectacular fireball. The flash fire quickly went out. Both drivers emerged, but Meier was taken for a precautionary CAT scan.
This yellow also came at a fortuitous time for pit stops, and once the pits were opened the leaders pitted. The top five emerged in the same order they entered. When the green waved nine laps later, Zanardi got a good run on Andretti, but not quite good enough to pass. After several laps of running on his tail, Zanardi faded, with Andretti slowly extending his lead over the next 50 laps.
As the leaders were preparing for their third pit stop to be under the green, Unser hit the front stretch wall, bringing out the yellow. The leaders took advantage of this to make their final stops. Zanardi gained the advantage by entering and leaving the pits more quickly, emerging ahead of Andretti and ending Michael's 126 lap lead. Moore emerged ahead of Vasser, having passed him just before the pit stops.
The action was interrupted on Lap 188 when Barron spun in Turn 2. There were no pit stops among the leaders, and the green came out after six laps. Fernandez fell out 30 laps before the finish, while at the same time the three leaders (Zanardi, Andretti, Moore) all turned up the wick, closing in on each other and drawing away from the rest of the field. As with the rest of the race, little passing occured among the top 10, and the 236 lap race ran out with Zanardi victorious.
The winner's average speed was 125.725 mph, with over an hour of yellow flag running accounting for the difference between this and the fastest qualifying/practice speeds in excess of 177 mph.
Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International