OLDSMOBILE EXTENDS IRL WINNING STREAK WITH INDY 200 VICTORY IRL Aurora V8 Continues Domination of Indy Racing League with Ninth Straight Victory in Orlando Season-Opener Orlando, Fla.; January 24, 1998 -- The 1998 Indy...
OLDSMOBILE EXTENDS IRL WINNING STREAK WITH INDY 200 VICTORY
IRL Aurora V8 Continues Domination of Indy Racing League with Ninth Straight Victory in Orlando Season-Opener
Orlando, Fla.; January 24, 1998 -- The 1998 Indy Racing League season began with three defending champions in the winner's circle at the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora. Tony Stewart, the defending IRL drivers champion, Team Menard, the IRL team champion, and Oldsmobile, the reigning IRL engine manufacturer champion, opened their title defenses with a victory on the Magic Kingdom's one-mile oval.
"I drove the car as hard and as deep into the corners as I could -- probably harder that I've ever driven before," said Stewart after posting his second career IRL victory. "Winning here took a big weight off my shoulders. This place owed us one."
Aurora racer Jeff Ward, the 1997 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, was runner-up, followed by Davey Hamilton, who finished second to Stewart in the IRL championship points. Fifteen cars were running at the finish; eight were involved in accidents. There were no driver injuries.
"This is a difficult track for passing, so you have to take chances," said Ward, a former motocross champion. "There was a lot risk-taking, and that may have caused some of the accidents.
"Without the IRL, I wouldn't be racing," Ward added. "This is a first-class operation, and it's only going to get better. I believed that I had the ability, but I had to get with a good team to show it."
The event marked the first anniversary of the IRL's new-generation Indy car engines and chassis. Last year, 16 of the 19 starters used Oldsmobile's production-based IRL Aurora V8 racing engine. This year 27 of the 28 drivers (96%) used Oldsmobile engines; the lone Nissan driver finished 23rd.
Team Menard's victory extended the IRL Aurora V8's winning streak to nine straight races. Oldsmobile engines have led every racing lap since January, 1997 -- a total of 1,773 laps (2,385 miles).
Comparisons to last year's Indy 200 underscored the dramatic progress of the IRL series. Thirty-one entries filled the paddock, with many new teams and sponsors in evidence. Pep Boys announced a five-year commitment as the series sponsor and posted a $1 million prize for the championship-winning team and driver.
"When you have more cars than starting spots, that's an indication of the success of the series," said Stewart. "To put it in perspective, remember that this is only the IRL's third year. That shows how much this series has grown."
"1998 is the year that the IRL comes of age," said Dennis Weglarz, Oldsmobile Specialty Vehicle manager. "The teams and builders have become proficient with the new engines. The IRL Aurora V8 is continuing to demonstrate a winning combination of performance, reliability, and durability. With the announcement of a new series sponsor, an expanded racing schedule, and a strong television package, the IRL is a great place to race. We are very encouraged by the interest that other manufacturers have recently expressed in the IRL series."
Eight independent engine builders supplied IRL Aurora V8 engines for the season-opening race. Only two engine-related problems were reported among the 27 Oldsmobile-powered entries.
"Engine reliability has reached the point that it is not a pressing issue," said Joe Negri, GM Motorsports IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "Obviously we would like to have zero failures, but that is not a realistic expectation in a racing series where teams are constantly trying new components. Ninety-three percent of the IRL Aurora V8 engines had no mechanical problems, and that's a good record."
The IRL Aurora V8 will be back in action at the Phoenix 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 22, 1998.
Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora Results
Top Five Finishers: Driver Entrant Engine Laps 1. Tony Stewart Team Menard Aurora 200 2. Jeff Ward ISM Racing Aurora 200 3. Davey Hamilton Nienhouse Mtrsprts Aurora 200 4. Stephan Gregoire Chastain Mtrsprts Aurora 200 5. Mark Dismore Kelley Racing Aurora 199
Pole: Tony Stewart/Aurora (starting order determined by 1997 entrants' points and practice speeds after qualifying canceled due to rain)
Fastest Lap: Kenny Brack/Aurora, 164.903 mph
Lap Leaders 1. Tony Stewart Aurora 132 laps 2. Buddy Lazier Aurora 34 3. Mark Dismore Aurora 27 4. R. Guerrero Aurora 6 5. Kenny Brack Aurora 1
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 24-Jan-1998