IRL: Atlanta Olsmobile Qualifying Report

Hampton, Ga.; August 28, 1998 - After a six-year absence from Atlanta Motor Speedway, Oldsmobile came roaring back with a pole-winning effort in qualifying tonight for the IRL Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI. After concluding its NASCAR ...

Hampton, Ga.; August 28, 1998 - After a six-year absence from Atlanta Motor Speedway, Oldsmobile came roaring back with a pole-winning effort in qualifying tonight for the IRL Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI. After concluding its NASCAR Winston Cup stock car program in 1992, Oldsmobile returned to the spotlight at AMS as the IRL Aurora V8 won its 17th consecutive pole in Pep Boys Indy Racing League competition.

Much has changed since Buddy Baker scored Oldsmobile's last NASCAR Winston Cup victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1979. The former back stretch is now the front straight; a new lighting system illuminates the refurbished 1.54-mile oval for night racing; and the hulking stock cars that once starred in Oldsmobile's motorsports program have been replaced by sleek open-wheeled racers powered by Oldsmobile's production-based 4.0-liter IRL Aurora V8 engine.

What hasn't changed is an Oldsmobile at the head of the pack. Baker won the pole in 1979 for the Atlanta 500 at 165.951 mph in Harry Ranier's Oldsmobile. Tonight Billy Boat drove A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile-powered Dallara to his fourth pole of the season and the fifth of his career. Boat, the polewinner at Indianapolis, Loudon, and Pikes Peak, set the absolute speed record at AMS at 224.145 mph, eclipsing the 194.478 mph mark set by Geoff Bodine in a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car. It was Boat's second straight pole after missing two races while recovering from a broken leg he sustained in an accident in June.

For the fourth time in 1998, Jeff Ward will start on the front row. The former motocross champion put ISM Racing's Oldsmobile-powered G-Force on the outside front row at 223.973 mph. Points leader Scott Sharp will start Kelley Racing's Olds-equipped Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara on the inside second row alongside Scott Goodyear in Panther Racing's G-Force Aurora.

OLDSMOBILE DOMINATES. Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 dominated qualifying for the first Indy car race at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 1983 as the 25 fastest drivers relied on Oldsmobile power. Twenty-five of the 26 qualifiers (96% of the field) for the Atlanta 500 Classic used Oldsmobile engines. The only Nissan driver who made a qualifying attempt qualified 26th with a speed 11.5 mph slower than Boat's pole-winning lap.

OLDSMOBILE QUALIFYING QUOTES: Billy Boat, polewinner: "Our team puts a lot of emphasis on qualifying because it not only pays money but it also pays point-and right now we need all we can get of both! A lot of credit goes to the team and also to our engine builder, Katech, who does a great job of giving us power.

"Most of the teams that are running up front are using qualifying engines. We don't always run a qualifying motor, but at certain tracks we do have an engine that is specifically built for qualifying with a more aggressive setup than you would want to run in the race. Katech does a great job with our Oldsmobile engines. They're constantly doing R&D on our motors and trying to find more power. Every week we hope we can make two or three more horsepower. At the end of the year, those little gains can add up to an advantage.

"We had a problem with low battery voltage in the last practice session. We went back to the garage and changed the wiring loom and alternator, but never did find the problem. That's something we'll have to fix before we race. If you lose battery voltage, the engine just dies, so we really didn't know if it would make five laps.

"This is one of the smoothest race tracks we've ever run. The banking makes up for some of the deficiencies in people's setups. You can run flat here pretty easily. I think it's going to be a matter of being patient tomorrow. There will be a lot of opportunities to rub wheels, and you don't want to be rubbing wheels in these race cars.

"The draft is huge here. It has more affect here than at any other race track we run. It won't be uncommon to see five or six cars running together. You can pick up 2 mph in the draft in a heartbeat.

"Missing two races really hurt us. You've just got to play the hand you're dealt. Right now we'll just try to sit on poles and win races. We probably won't win the championship this year, but we'll come back and try to win it next year."

ENGINE BUILDER SCORE CARD. The four fastest qualifiers represent three different Oldsmobile engine builders: Katech, Inc. (polewinner Billy Boat); Comptech Machine (Jeff Ward, outside front row and Scott Sharp, inside second row); and Speedway Engine Development (Scott Goodyear, outside second row).

STOCK CAR COMPARISON. A typical IRL Aurora V8 engine produces over 700 horsepower - about the same power as a Winston Cup engine - but does it with one-third less displacement. A 4.0-liter IRL Aurora V8 displaces 244 cubic inches, while a Winston Cup small-block displaces 358 cubic inches. The IRL Aurora V8 engine makes up for its lack of displacement by revving higher (10,500 rpm vs. 8,800 rpm) and burning methanol fuel instead of gasoline. Like its production counterpart, the IRL Aurora V8 has 32 valves-twice as many as a Winston Cup small-block-and four camshafts (instead of the single cam used in a NASCAR engine).

TV TIME. The Atlanta 500 Classic will be televised live on TNN on Saturday night, August 29, at 9:00 p.m. EDT.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Buddy Baker , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing