IRL: Texas Qualifying Story

Ft. Worth, Texas (September 18, 1998) - Billy Boat will start from the pole position in A. J. Foyt's No. 14 Conseco car for the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Boat's pole position, his third in a row, sets a Pep Boys Indy Racing...

Ft. Worth, Texas (September 18, 1998) - Billy Boat will start from the pole position in A. J. Foyt's No. 14 Conseco car for the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Boat's pole position, his third in a row, sets a Pep Boys Indy Racing League record for consecutive poles. Boat's pole run of 225.979 mph also sets a record for the fastest pole speed for the current IRL formula. The previous record, 224.448 mph, was set by Tony Stewart three months ago in the IRL's last visit to Texas Motor Speedway. Despite a record setting pole run at the June event, Stewart exceeded the official record by turning a race lap under the lights at over 228 mph.

Qualifying started at 4:00 p.m. today, with temperatures still in the 90s. Boat was second in line to qualify and his warm up lap of 221 mph, six mph slower than he practiced, drew gasps from up and down the pit lane. But Boat was slowly bringing his tires up to temperature without causing them any harm.

"He didn't gamble on his first lap," car owner A. J. Foyt said. "He just put a good hard lap in to get more temperature in the tires."

After warming his tires at less than stellar speeds, Boat put his foot to the floor for the 23.896 second trip around the mile and a half superspeedway. On the second lap the gearbox broke on the backstretch causing Boat to coast across the finish line recording a speed under 160 mph.

Boat and Foyt waited nervously as the rest of the field took their best shot at knocking the Texas team off the pole. Nine cars assumed the runner-up spot before Tony Stewart, the last car to qualifying, secured the position.

"We qualify with the same engines we race with," Stewart reported sternly, "so if I qualify near the front of the field, I'm pretty pumped up."

Foyt admitted that Boat had qualified with a race engine too. "There's really not that much difference between qualifying and race engines," said Foyt "we just abuse the qualifying motors a little more and use more radical cams."

Dave Steele will start the Panther Racing Pennzoil No. 43 car from the inside of the sixth row, the highest starting position for a rookie. "I think it just says a lot of the team to come here with a guy with very little experience. I'm probably the weakest link in the chain," Steele said. "I'm used to running 120 instead of 220. The turns come up a lot quicker. The toughest thing for me is going to be running with other cars."

Steele has a one race deal with Panther but hopes to use this opportunity to further his career in the IRL.

IRL teams will have another hour and fifteen minutes of practice on Saturday in preparation for Sunday's Longhorn 500. The Z MAX 250 for the ARCA Series takes the green flag at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. The distance for the ARCA race is 167 laps.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Billy Boat , Dave Steele
Teams Panther Racing