POSTRACE NOTES: VISIONAIRE 500, JULY 25, CHARLOTTE, N.C. THE WINNER: --Kenny Brack: Brack led seven times for 76 laps and pulled away from runner-up Jeff Ward late in the race to win the VisionAire 500, the seventh race of the 1998 ...
POSTRACE NOTES: VISIONAIRE 500, JULY 25, CHARLOTTE, N.C.
--Kenny Brack: Brack led seven times for 76 laps and pulled away from runner-up Jeff Ward late in the race to win the VisionAire 500, the seventh race of the 1998 season. Brack earned his first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory in the Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.
Brack, from Karlstad, Sweden, beat Ward by 5.602 seconds. But the margin could have been wider if not for miscues on Brack's final pit stop, on Lap 174 of the 208-lap race.
Those mistakes forced Brack to mount a late charge through traffic. Brack started to turn laps faster than 218 mph - anywhere between 3 to 5 mph faster than leader Ward and second-place Scott Goodyear - and passed Goodyear for second on Lap 185.
Ward led Brack by 2.072 seconds, but that lead vanished quickly. Brack caught Ward on Lap 192 and attempted a pass on the backstretch. But Ward held him off for the last time.
On Lap 196, Brack and Ward approached the lapped car of Marco Greco while exiting Turn 2 of the 1.5-mile tri-oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ward stayed low, Brack high. Ward got trapped behind Greco, and Brack slipped past to take the lead for good.
"A.J. makes sure the cars are good and fast, and the rest is up to the crew and I," Brack said. "We've got to do some work to make sure things go smoothly, and we don't make mistakes in the future.
"Winning feels great. I hadn't won a race since F3 in Europe in 1996, and I'm used to winning much more often than that."
Said Foyt: "I've never seen a crew make so many mistakes and still end up winning. We had the problem at the end with the pit stop, and everything was on Kenny to win. He made us look like champions. As long as it's my blood pressure and not my language boiling, I guess I'm all right."
Brack's car was strong the entire race. He started third but led seven times, starting on Lap 31. Brack climbed into a tie with Scott Goodyear for fourth in the Pep Boys IRL point standings with the victory. Both drivers have 182 points in the chase for the Pep Boys Million.
--Jeff Ward: Ward tied his career-best IRL finish by placing second in the ISM Racing-Prolong-Superflo-Tabasco G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. The strong showing ended a four-race slide for Ward, whose best finish since April was 13th at the Indianapolis 500.
ISM Racing and Ward decided not to take fresh tires on their final pit stop, trying to gain track position. The move looked smart, as Ward led Brack by 2.072 seconds with 23 laps remaining.
But then a vibration slowed Ward's lap speeds and let Brack close the gap quickly. Ward gamely held off Brack on Lap 192, but Brack took advantage of traffic and took the lead for good on Lap 196.
"I think Kenny's tires being newer helped him," Ward said. "We felt not taking on tires and having a three-second stop gave us the opportunity to get out quicker and get the lead.
"We went a full run and a half run on our tires. Then we developed a vibration. We decided to keep running and settle for second. Especially with the luck we've been having."
Ward jumped from seventh to sixth in the Pep Boys IRL standings with the strong finish.
--Scott Goodyear: Goodyear may have no victories this season, but he's earning the title of Mr. Consistency.
Goodyear finished third in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, the last driver on the lead lap. It was his fourth consecutive top-six finish. Goodyear is tied for fourth in the Pep Boys IRL standings with Kenny Brack at 182 points. Both drivers are just 32 points behind leader Scott Sharp.
"After the last restart, we picked up a real bad vibration, and the oil light was coming on" Goodyear said. "The car was vibrating so bad I couldn't even read the pit board going down the backstretch.
"We gained some points on (Tony) Stewart and Sharp, and that's real important because we've got a championship to chase."
Goodyear led twice for only five laps, but he was in the top six at every 50-lap interval of the race. That kind of consistency should help him remain a title contender for the rest of the season.
Kelley Racing: Kelley Racing drivers Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore turned Charlotte Motor Speedway into their private playground for part of the race, taking turns swapping the lead for about 15 laps midway through the race.
The teammates appeared headed for a banner evening, but fate intervened.
Sharp was running third on Lap 105 when his Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear spun in Turn 4 and hit the outside wall. His race was over.
"We were fighting the car all night," Sharp said. "It was sliding around all over the place. Then it just snapped going through (turns) 3 and 4."
Points leader Sharp was unhurt in the crash. But the wreck was painful to his psyche because he could have opened a wider gap between himself and second-place Tony Stewart, who was out with mechanical problems after just 54 laps.
Dismore carried the flag for Kelley Racing after Sharp's crash and was one of four cars on the lead lap on Lap 144 when his engine expired. It was a tough result for Dismore, who led four times for 21 laps.
"It's just been one of those years for us," Dismore said. "It's a real shame. The car was excellent, and we really had a great chance to make up some ground in the points."
THE REST OF THE STORY:
--Impressive debut: Stevie Reeves fulfilled a lifelong dream and made a big impression by finishing 10th in his Pep Boys IRL debut in the Pagan Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear.
Former USAC midget national champion Reeves finished 184 laps before a tripod problem put him out of the race. He joined Pagan Racing earlier this month after racing in the NASCAR Busch Series since 1994.
Reeves was seventh when he was sidelined with the mechanical problem. He ended up the top-finishing rookie in the race.
"The car was really comfortable," Reeves said. "The car just got better and better. We're pleased with everything. The team has had a lot of patience with me this week."
--Travelin' man: Donnie Beechler piled up a few more frequent-flier miles than expected during race weekend, as he rushed home to Springfield, Ill., on the morning of July 24 to witness the birth of his first child, a girl named Shae Marie.
Beechler returned to Charlotte the next afternoon and finished 19th in the Cahill Racing-Amerapress-Voxcom Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. His race ended when his car was collected by Scott Sharp's car after it hit the wall in Turn 4.
--Small solace: Defending Pep Boys IRL champion Tony Stewart finished a disappointing 21st after being sidelined with mechanical problems in his Glidden-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. But Stewart had a blast the night before by winning the USAC midget feature at the track.
--The good doctor: Dr. Jack Miller earned a career-best ninth place in the Crest Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
It also was the best finish for an Infiniti-powered car since March 1997, when Mike Groff finished sixth at the Phoenix 200 with an Infiniti under the engine cover.
"The car was good from the start," Miller said. "I've never been in a position to pass before. Ninth is really great for this team."
THE FACTS AND FIGURES:
--Andy Michner became the first rookie to lead a lap this season in the Pep Boys IRL. Michner led once for two laps in his first race as the replacement for the injured Eliseo Salazar in the Reebok R&S MK V Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear.
THE NEXT EVENT:
Aug. 16, Radisson 200, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Fountain, Colo.