AIS: Birmingham Race Report

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October 25, 1998 Birmingham International Raceway victory by Greg Gorden clinches 1998 American IndyCar Series Driver Championship. Birmingham, AL: The south opened its arms wide to Greg Gorden and the American IndyCar Series as Gorden won...

October 25, 1998

Birmingham International Raceway victory by Greg Gorden clinches 1998 American IndyCar Series Driver Championship.

Birmingham, AL: The south opened its arms wide to Greg Gorden and the American IndyCar Series as Gorden won the season ending race of the 1998 AIS season and, at the same time, won the American IndyCar Series 1998 Driver Championship at the historic Birmingham International Raceway on Saturday, October 24, 1998.

"I knew I would have to have a perfect weekend to wrestle the championship away from Ken Petrie. The odds were against me," stated Gorden in his post-race interview. "Ken's been on a winning streak for the last three races and I knew it would be extremely tough and that there was no margin for error. My crew worked hard and were really up for what we managed to make happen. Even though the car was perfect, I still can't believe we won the championship."

At the beginning of the weekend, Gorden and Bill Tempero were tied for second in the point standing, and trailed Petrie by only three points. Gorden closed the point gap by winning the pole position. Gorden gained additional points for being setting the fastest lap and for leading flag to flag. Greg Gorden, with 92 points, took the championship from Petrie by one point.

As the green flag dropped, Gorden charged into the lead with Petrie and Tempero in hot pursuit. Petrie's attempt at a pass for the lead on lap 25, following the first of four yellows, was foiled as Gorden protected his line entering turn one. Petrie came close to taking the lead twice more, once on lap 49 in turn one and again on lap 75 entering turn three, but Gorden did an excellent job at protecting the lead he enjoyed from start to finish.

Another battle for third place was being fought as AIS Rookie, Alex Danze, driving the former John Andretti Lola, challenged veteran Bill Tempero. After swapping positions for the first half of the 100 lap race, Danze passed Tempero as he exited turn four onto the front straight on lap 69 to clinch the third place position. "I had the faster car, but Bill did an excellent protecting his position," stated Danze, "After studying his tactics, I figured out he took the low line out of four and I finally managed to set up an outside pass and move into third for a podium finish."

AIS rookie point leader, Joe Truscelli, blew his engine during practice but managed to get into one of the Loophole Racing Team cars for the Birmingham race. With a ninth place finish, Joe won the American IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year title for 1998. The Canadian driver originally scheduled to drive the Loophole car came down with an illness and was unable to attend the Birmingham race.

The new, 1998 American IndyCar Series Champion, Greg Gorden successfully completed his Indy Racing League (IRL) Rookie test just before the Birmingham race. Gorden will be testing in Orlando during the coming month as he prepares for the January, 1999 IRL opener at Walt Disney World. Gorden will be driving a G-Force Indy Car for the newly formed Truscelli Racing Team during the 1999 IRL season.

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