IRL: Kentucky; Schroeder out early despite "rocket ship"

</pre> SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 27 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., started sixth and passed three top cars on the very first lap of Sunday's Belterra Resorts Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. He passed the polesitter next and he was on...

</pre> SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 27 - Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., started sixth and passed three top cars on the very first lap of Sunday's Belterra Resorts Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. He passed the polesitter next and he was on the inside of Eliseo Salazar's car and going for the lead with two laps down when he was forced to go low on the track, which caused him to spin and crash into the outside retaining wall between turns one and two while working lap three. The right side of Tri Star Motorsports' Kroger/tristarmall.com Dallara Aurora received extensive damage and came to rest in the middle of the speedway, but luckily the 30-year-old Vineland, N.J., resident wasn't hurt.

Salazar hit the outside wall too, near the exit of turn two. Al Unser Jr. was an innocent victim of it all, as he tried to avoid both of them but he hit the outside wall at the entrance to turn two.

The cars of Scott Sharp, Airton Dare and Davey Hamilton reportedly received some damage from debris from the crash, but luckily no one was injured.

Schroeder had set the second-fastest lap in the morning practice session before the race with a circuit averaging 217.051 mph, behind only Buddy Lazier's 217.418 mph lap. He was ready to show his mettle as soon as all-time baseball hit leader Pete Rose gave the command to start the engines and the green waved before a crowd of 61,214 and a live ESPN TV audience. After starting sixth he primarily used the outside groove to pass Jeff Ward, Sarah Fisher and Greg Ray, crossing the start/finish line at the end of the first lap in third place behind only Salazar and polesitter Scott Goodyear. He passed Goodyear for second on lap two and was attempting to take the lead from Salazar seconds later when the trouble occurred.

"The Kroger/tristarmall.com car was a rocket ship, and we were going for the lead easy," Schroeder said after being released from the infield care center. "He [Salazar] came down low and I had to get down on the apron to avoid him. When you get that low and that flat at that speed it causes you to spin, and then I went into the wall. I don't know if he didn't see me or not, but his spotter should have let him know I was there at least.

"The car looks bad but it wasn't that bad of a hit really. I'm fine and I'm glad everybody is OK. I'm just really disappointed because we had a great car today."

Officially Schroeder ended up 26th in the field of 27 in the 200-lap event. He lost the lead for the first time since March in the Racesearch.com Rookie of the Year point standings, slipping to second in that ranking by two points, 124 to 122, behind Airton Dare, who finished 19th. A total of 55 points are up for grabs at every race, so unofficially five drivers are still eligible for the top rookie prize at the season finale, the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Oct. 15, which will be broadcast live on ABC: Dare (124 points), Schroeder (122 points), Sam Hornish Jr. (107 points), Fisher (105 points) and Shigeaki Hattori (83 points).

Point leader Buddy Lazier became the first repeat winner in Indy Racing Northern Light competition this year when he won the race over Goodyear, Fisher, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Stephan Gregoire. The race was extremely competitive, as there were 10 different leaders and 17 lead changes.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Airton Daré , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder , Sam Hornish Jr.