POSTRACE NOTES: ATLANTA 500 CLASSIC PRESENTED BY MCI, AUG. 29, HAMPTON, GA. THE WINNER: Kenny Brack: Brack became the first driver in Pep Boys Indy Racing League history to win three consecutive races, holding off Davey Hamilton by .944 of a...
POSTRACE NOTES: ATLANTA 500 CLASSIC PRESENTED BY MCI, AUG. 29, HAMPTON, GA.
Kenny Brack: Brack became the first driver in Pep Boys Indy Racing League history to win three consecutive races, holding off Davey Hamilton by .944 of a second to win the inaugural Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was Brack's third victory of the season in the Power Team Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. The victory pushed him to the top of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League standings for the first time in his career. Brack, from Karlstad, Sweden, was sixth in the points just before his hot streak of victories, winning this event, the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway and the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
For this victory, Brack earned $160,950, $50,000 of that sum his half of a $100,000 bonus shared with a fan through the MCI Pep Boys Million contest. Brack will split a $1 million bonus with a fan if he wins the season-ending Las Vegas 500 on Oct. 11.
"Well, I didn't think it was going to be three wins in a row in this time of the year," Brack said. "I've always won races in whatever I've driven, and that's the reason I wanted to go with A.J. I didn't know him, but I knew he had good equipment that you could win races with. I knew there was a realistic chance of that happening with A.J. "I like to race, and I have fun racing, but I do it because I have a realistic chance of winning." Brack seized his chance for victory on Lap 195 of the 208-lap race, passing Jeff Ward for the lead in Turn 1 of the 1.54-mile quad-oval. Hamilton stalked Brack over the last 14 laps, trimming his lead from 1.591 seconds to less than one second. But he came no closer than the final margin of victory. "I don't know how to drive defensively, I just drove the best I could and I went on to win," Brack said. "I got by Davey, I knew I could maybe catch him (Ward). I didn't expect to catch him so quickly." Brack led twice for 17 laps, only the fourth-highest total among lap leaders in the event. That continued a trend started in Brack's victory in the Radisson 200, where he led only 28 of 200 laps but managed to pull out the victory despite running out of gas in the final turn. "There is a great chemistry on this team," Foyt said. "If you have great chemistry, you'll have a great team."
Davey Hamilton, Scott Goodyear and Jeff Ward: It's only fitting to group together these three contenders because each driver appeared to have a good shot at earning his long-awaited first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory before fate or mechanical gremlins intervened. Hamilton ended up a career-best second in his Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear after leading twice for 19 laps. He climbed into second in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League standings, 23 points behind leader Kenny Brack. "We want to win, big-time," Hamilton said. "But we know how long it takes to win races. We don't have very many yet. "We had a great day today. Hopefully a win is right around the corner." Consistency continues to pave Hamilton's way toward the top of the standings. He has finished in the top five in the last six races. Goodyear was disappointed after finishing fourth in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, with good reason. He dominated the first half of the race, leading 93 of the first 135 laps. But vibration problems sliced into Goodyear's speed after a pit stop on Lap 135. The Pennzoil Panther team fixed the problem but changing tires, but Goodyear ran out of time in his pursuit of the leaders. "We had a set of tires that just didn't agree with the car," Goodyear said. "We were running so well prior to that stop. Luckily, we got a yellow toward the end of the race, and we were able to get a better set of tires on the car and got our speeds back up to the 220-mph range. "I just ran out of time. If we would have had one more lap, I think we would have put the Pennzoil car on the podium." Still, the finish was impressive considering that Goodyear's team was forced to change engines twice during the race weekend. Ward once again looked dominant but fell short of his elusive first victory. He was the only driver to lead during all phases of the race, leading laps 1-27, 155-165 and 169-194. It appeared that he would deliver a timely victory, as during the event the ISM Racing team unveiled Thermo Tech Technologies as the new primary sponsor of Ward's G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Ward led Brack by 2.225 seconds on Lap 185. But Brack quickly caught up, passing Ward for keeps on Lap 195. Handling problems plagued Ward. "We continually tried to make adjustments again and again, and still got loose on the end of the fuel load," Ward said. "It was a never-ending battle that we didn't get a handle on until it was too late in the race."
THE REST OF THE STORY:
Changing points landscape: The Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings have quite a different complexion after this event, as three of the top five positions were shuffled. A look at the top five in the standings before and after this race:
BEFORE AFTER 1. Scott Sharp 233 1. Kenny Brack 282 2. Kenny Brack 232 2. Davey Hamilton 259 3. Tony Stewart 227 3. Tony Stewart 257 4. Davey Hamilton 219 4. Scott Sharp 246 5. Scott Goodyear 194 5. Scott Goodyear 228 Sharp fell from the points lead after finishing 18th in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear due to gearbox problems. That finished tied his season worst. "The guys worked hard on it," Sharp said of his car's problems. "It's a real shame. (The points) are so tight. Hopefully we can still be somewhere close."
Eddie bounces back: Eddie Cheever Jr. finished third in the Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-Team Cheever Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, his best outing since winning the Indianapolis 500 in May. Cheever's best finish between Indy and this event was eighth in the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
He climbed from 10th to eighth in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings with the podium finish. Maybe heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, honorary starter for the race, inspired Cheever. Holyfield and Cheever posed for photographs before the race, and Holyfield sat in Cheever's car while Cheever showed him the cockpit controls.
Tenacious Tony: Just when it looked like defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart was down for the count, he fought back with one of the more impressive drives of his career, finishing fifth.
Stewart and Team Menard struggled in qualifying, as Stewart started a career-worst 25th in the 28-car field. But he deftly wove through traffic early in the race, and used the revitalized power of Glidden-Menards-Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone to take the lead from laps 99-110. He never led thereafter but engaged in a spirited, side-by-side battle with Eddie Cheever Jr. for fourth on laps 197-198.
"We're just happy the car ran well," Stewart said. "It was quite a shock to be leading this race. The guys did a great job in the pits. They kept getting spots for me."
Night is right for Foyt: Kenny Brack's victory completed a sweep of the three night races this season for A.J. Foyt Racing. Brack also won the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His teammate, Billy Boat, won the True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway. New man in Panther Pack: USAC standout Dave Steele was named during this event to drive a second Pennzoil Panther Racing entry as a teammate to Scott Goodyear at the Lone Star 500 on Sept. 20 at Texas Motor Speedway. Steele will drive the #43 Pennzoil G Force/Aurora/Goodyear with associate sponsorship from Manheim's Fort Worth Auto Auction. Steele is the only driver this season to win at least one race in each of USAC's three major national divisions: Silver Crown, sprint and midget. Steele, 24, from Tampa, Fla., made his Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut for the rsm Marko team at the Dura-Lube 200 in March at Phoenix. He finished 22nd.
THE FACTS AND FIGURES:
Billy Boat won the PPG Pole for the fourth time this season and the second consecutive time since returning from injuries suffered in the New England 200 on June 28.
Kenny Brack's third victory was the most in one season by a driver in Pep Boys Indy Racing League history.
Marco Greco led three laps, the first time this season that he has led a Pep Boys Indy Racing League event.
THE NEXT EVENT: Sept. 20, Lone Star 500, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas.