For Immediate Release BUHL HOLDS BACK SOSPIRI FOR WIN IN WILD PENNZOIL 200 FINISH LOUDON, N.H., August 17, 1997 -- Robbie Buhl held back Vincenzo Sospiri off the fourth turn in traffic Sunday to capture the Pennzoil 200 at New ...
For Immediate Release
BUHL HOLDS BACK SOSPIRI FOR WIN IN WILD PENNZOIL 200 FINISH
LOUDON, N.H., August 17, 1997 -- Robbie Buhl held back Vincenzo Sospiri off the fourth turn in traffic Sunday to capture the Pennzoil 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway by .064 of a second in the closest finish in Indy Racing League history. The win was Buhl's first in the Indy-style ranks and he became the eighth different driver to win a race in nine IRL events in the 1996-97 season. Coupled with Tony Stewart's win at Pikes Peak in June, it also gave Team Menard two wins in the last three IRL outings. Buhl collected $123,500 of the $1,120,000 race payoff. Buhl inherited the lead just three laps from the finish when Eddie Cheever Jr.'s gearbox failed and he coasted to a stop in Turn 1 after leading 80 of the 200 laps around the two-mile oval. Entering the final corner to the checkered flag, Buhl and Sospiri encountered three cars in front of them. Buhl stayed high and Sospiri went low, the latter narrowly missing victory. It was Buhl's return to racing after a two-race absence because of inju ries suffered in a testing accident. "It turned out something happened to Cheever," Buhl said, "and I had to get on the binders to avoid hitting him. They came on the radio and said Sospiri was for position and here I am on the brakes. "When I was out those races, I was there supporting the guys," Buhl, a graduate of New England College, added. "It feels great to win up here. It's kind of special. I had a couple of buddies here and my parents were in the stands." Later, Sospiri described the final corner. "In Turns 3 and 4, we got in traffic and I got on the outside," he said. "We were racing side-by-side. I was on the outside -- the dusty side (before diving low). It's not the fastest line. If we had one more lap, it would've been more fun. If the finish line was 100 to 200 yards farther, we would've been the winner." Tony Stewart and Davey Hamilton, the 1996-97 IRL driver point leaders, both were sidelined with engine problems, Stewart finishing 14th and Hamilton 17th. Stewart takes a 10-point lead over Hamilton going into the season's final race Oct. 11 at Las Vegas . Arie Luyendyk finished third, 4.626 seconds behind the leader, followed by Eliseo Salazar, Kenny Brack and Roberto Guerrero, all on the lead lap. The finish broke the IRL record for closest victory margin of .222 of a second by Stewart over Stephan Gregoire at Pikes Peak in June. Buhl's best previous IRL finish was third at Walt Disney World in 1996. Sospiri's best previous IRL finish was sixth at Pikes Peak. The finishes of Eliseo Salazar (fourth) and John Paul Jr. (seventh) were also career IRL bests. In all, nine different drivers led, tying the IRL mark of nine set in June at Texas. PPG Pole winner Marco Greco led the first 34 laps before hitting the outside wall, continuing to pit road and being sidelined by a $12 part (a fitting pressure reliever on an oil line).
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