IRL: Phoenix Jeff Ward - A Learning Experience

A learning experience for Ward By Matthew Leach PHOENIX (Oct. 24, 1998) Jeff Ward, a veteran of the Indy Racing League, expected his first attempt in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series would be tough. In open-wheel racing, there's not much...

A learning experience for Ward By Matthew Leach

PHOENIX (Oct. 24, 1998) Jeff Ward, a veteran of the Indy Racing League, expected his first attempt in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series would be tough. In open-wheel racing, there's not much bumping and grinding, because contact between cars often ends both parties' day.

There was no way to know that just getting in the show would present such a challenge, though. Ward fell well short of making the Dura Lube/Kmart 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. He was slowest in Bud Pole Qualifying and again in Bud Second-Round Qualifying. Since he is ineligible for a provisional, Ward is going home.

No matter how difficult he expected the going to be, that's still tough to take if you're used to winning races, never mind making them. Before his experience in the IRL, in which he finished sixth overall this year, Ward was a superstar on motorcycles. He was the first rider in history to win every major AMA national motorcross title.

"It was tough," Ward said. "I wasn't worried about what these guys were doing, just what I could get out of the car. It just got to the point where it was either I'd push the envelope and bang it up, or just stay where I was at. I stayed where I was at. I need to jump up to the next level.

"We came here and tested and ran decent. We came out here to run, get some track time, maybe learn something from a few of these guys, which I have.

"We're just so far behind the 8-ball it's just not even comprehensible for us to even think about running with these guys right now. I learned a lot today, and when I get behind the wheel of the car next time, I'll be that much further ahead."

And that's the key. Ward is used to trying new things, and he knows it's difficult to run in a new series. So while it's disappointing and frustrating to miss a race, Ward isn't going to jump off a building because of it. He took his lumps, and he expects to be back for more.

Ward will enter the NASCAR Winston West Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in two weeks, and plans to run several races on that circuit in 1999. He also intends to try a few more times in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in '99.

"I'm in the IRL right now, and that's what I'm focusing on," Ward said. "The IRL's strong right now, but you don't know the path it's gonna take. If it stays strong and goes on forever, that's great. I'd be happy. But if sponsorship's hard to get, and it dies down, as strong a series as it is, I need somewhere to go racing.

"I learned a lot, and that's what I came out here for. I know a lot of the drivers, and just talking to them, they give me input. Maybe someday I can move over here and be competitive."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Ward