BRACK HOLDS TRUMP CARD IN CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE AT VEGAS LAS VEGAS, Sept. 30, 1998 - The odds are good for Kenny Brack at Las Vegas: Eighth or better, and he hits the jackpot. Brack must finish eighth or better in the...
BRACK HOLDS TRUMP CARD IN CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE AT VEGAS
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 30, 1998 - The odds are good for Kenny Brack at Las Vegas: Eighth or better, and he hits the jackpot.
Brack must finish eighth or better in the season-ending Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to clinch his first Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship and the Pep Boys Million bonus. If Brack wins the race, he also would split another $1 million with a lucky fan as part of the MCI Pep Boys Million Dollar Driver sweepstakes. The 208-lap, 312-mile race starts at 1 p.m. (PDT) on the 1.5-mile oval. If Brack finishes eighth, he will guarantee at least a tie for first in the point standings regardless of the performance of second-place Davey Hamilton. Brack would win a tiebreaker with Hamilton because he would finish the season with more victories than Hamilton. Brack enters this 11th and final race of the season with three wins; Hamilton none. Of course, Brack could make it easy on himself and the rest of the A.J. Foyt Racing team by simply finishing ahead of Hamilton and third-place Tony Stewart, the only other drivers eligible for the title. Brack leads Hamilton by 31 points, 312-281. Stewart is third at 271.
Don't bet against it.
Brack, from Karlstad, Sweden, has been the master of the 1.5-mile ovals this season in his Power Team Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Two of his record three consecutive victories came on the 1.5-mile tracks at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and he finished third and fifth, respectively, in two races at 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
While Brack climbed from sixth to first in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings with consecutive victories at Charlotte, Colorado Springs and Atlanta in July and August, consistency might be the overlooked keystone in his title run. No driver can win a title without it, and Brack is no exception.
Brack has managed a top-10 finish in seven of the last eight races. The only exception was an 18th place at the New England 200 on June 28 at Loudon, N.H.
That's an exceptional run for a guy who started the season with a 13th place at the season-opening Indy 200 on Jan. 24 at Orlando, Fla., and a 14th at the Dura-Lube 200 on March 22 at Phoenix.
But Brack started to fulfill his promise and show off the mechanical skill of the Foyt team with a sixth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500. That finish provided the springboard that launched a run toward the top for the Swede with speed.
While Brack's chase for the championship will capture most of the attention in Las Vegas, an interesting subplot also has developed after two years of Indy Racing League events at LVMS. About the only thing that's predictable about Indy Racing League events at the track is unpredictability.
Richie Hearn and Eliseo Salazar both earned their first career Indy Racing League victories by winning at Las Vegas in 1996 and 1997, respectively.
There are plenty of impressive candidates to join the first-timers' club at Vegas, a testament to just how difficult it is to win in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League.
Hamilton leads the list of drivers seeking their first career Indy Racing League victory who could break through at Las Vegas. He has finished in the top 10 in the last eight races in the Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, including a career-best second Aug. 29 at Atlanta.
Scott Goodyear also is a prime candidate for his first league win in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. He finished second at this event last year and has recorded top-10 finishes in six of the last eight races this season.
Jeff Ward also is a win waiting to happen. Ward has led 306 laps this season in the Thermo Tech-Prolong-Superflo G Force/Aurora/Goodyear - second only to Stewart's 598 - but is winless.
Other top drivers seeking their first career Indy Racing League victories include Mark Dismore, Stephan Gregoire, Roberto Guerrero, Raul Boesel and Sam Schmidt, a Las Vegas resident.
A final subplot to the race will be the farewell of defending series champion Stewart as a full-time driver in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League for the foreseeable future. Stewart will drive in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series next season and would love to complete his outstanding open-wheel career with a victory and a repeat championship in the Glidden-Menards-Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone.