ROCKWALL, TX -- January 30, 2000 -- Airton Dare's (Dar-Ray) eleventh place finish in Saturday's Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando establishes the 21 year old Brazilian as the early leader in the "Rookie of the Year" ...
ROCKWALL, TX -- January 30, 2000 -- Airton Dare's (Dar-Ray) eleventh place finish in Saturday's Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando establishes the 21 year old Brazilian as the early leader in the "Rookie of the Year" race.
Dare's finish in his first IRL event was made even more impressive by the fact that he had to start in 25th place. The starting position was determined by points due to qualifying being rained out on Friday.
All of the race's rookies started at the rear of the field. "We started as huge under (dogs), so we're happy with how we finished, "Dare' commented moments after climbing out of his TeamXtreme #88 G-Force.
As Saturday's weather cleared into the type of day one expects from central Florida, Airton made his way to pit lane for the 11:30 am driver introductions. Excitement filled him as he heard "driving the #88 G-Force for TeamXtreme - Airton Dare'" for the first of what will surely be many IRL events.
Airton quickly walked to the end of pit road to climb into his brand new racecar with the Brayton power plant. The ABC broadcast began at noon and the cars started rolling from the starting grid at 12:04.
The first few laps are slowed by two cautions, the first is a spin by Jaques Lazier and the second is a hard crash on lap 24 as Davey Hamilton hits the outside wall in Turn 1.
Dare' pits on lap 30 for tires and fuel. Airton recalls, "My first run from the start, we had to come in and take some turns on the front wing. So we needed to make a lot of changes."
The cautions allowed race leader Greg Ray to close up on Dare's rear and put "Splash" (as his crew calls him for winning 6 Brazilian and 1 South American Championship as a professional jet ski racer) one lap down. That is as far down as he would go as the remainder of the day was spent working his way to the front of the field.
Two more yellows came out in the next 65 laps, one for debris and the second when Jon Herb slows exiting Turn 3 and makes contact with other cars. Dare' shows that he not only knows how to race hard but he knows how to race smart as he avoids the debris and a spin directly in front of him.
After Robbie Unser hit the wall on lap, 95 Dare' pits on lap 96. The stop was slowed by a problem with the fuel probe and several on track positions were lost. Dare' again started climbing up through the field when the race slowed for a caution on lap 101 for more debris and again on lap 111 as Jaques Lazier makes hard contact with the wall on the front stretch.
The second half cautions allowed Crew Chief, Rob Stark to wonder if they could finish the race on one more fuel stop. Dare' radioed, "I want to stay out if we are close on fuel."
On lap 136 rookie Sam Hornish spins while exiting Turn 1 bringing out the yellow once more. The pits open on lap 138 and Dare' comes in for what would be his last stop of the day receiving 4 tires and fuel. Asked about the stop Airton said, "After my last pit stop, the car was perfect. I wish we would have had it like that the whole time." The race stayed green until a late back stretch spin on lap 176 brought the last caution of the day.
One of the most exciting finishes in Indy Racing League history saw Robbie Buhl win the season opener with a pass of Eddie Cheever on lap 199.
After the race an elated Dare' said, "I learned a lot during this race. It was a good start. The car doesn't have to be right from the start. You can change the car during the race, and if you make changes you can move up. I like this kind of racing."