WARD LONGS FOR FIRST WIN AFTER TAKING SECOND AT CHARLOTTE CONCORD, N.C., July 25, 1998 -- Jeff Ward was turning 200-mph-plus laps Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but all he could think was "the laps were going by so slow." Ward...
WARD LONGS FOR FIRST WIN AFTER TAKING SECOND AT CHARLOTTE
CONCORD, N.C., July 25, 1998 -- Jeff Ward was turning 200-mph-plus laps Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but all he could think was "the laps were going by so slow."
Ward had snatched the lead in the VisionAire 500 with 33 laps to go and pulled away from second-place Scott Goodyear and third-place Kenny Brack. It was his race to win.
But it didn't happen.
Brack overcame a pit foul-up to mount a tremendous late charge and overtake Ward on Lap 196. Brack, A.J. Foyt's driver from Sweden, motored to a 5.602-second victory over Ward, a former AMA motocross champion.
"The laps were going down so slow," said Ward, who was born in Scotland but has lived most of his life in California. "I hit some lappers and had to lift."
Brack earned his first Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory, Ward his second runner-up finish of the season in the ISM Racing-Prolong-Superflo-Tabasco G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Ward hasn't won yet during his Pep Boys IRL career and admits it's frustrating.
"Especially when you're going for your first victory," he said. "It's just a confidence thing. It gets the monkey off of you. That first one you want to get so bad.
"I started racing bikes (motorcycles) when I was 16 or 17. It took me four years to win my first national. Then I won three more that year and 10 the next."
Brack led 76 laps, Ward 56 and Goodyear five. Goodyear finished third, the only other driver on the lead lap. Other lap leaders were Scott Sharp (25), Mark Dismore (21), Tony Stewart (19), Greg Ray (four) and rookie Andy Michner (two).
On the final pit stop, Brack took fresh tires. Ward didn't, and he thought that contributed to the final outcome. Ward, who started 10th, also developed a vibration that he thought might have been tire-oriented.
"I wasn't going to make it easy for him," Ward said. "Then the lappers were coming up."
One lapped car was Marco Greco. As Ward tried to hold off Brack on Lap 196, he swept out of the second turn and came upon Greco. Ward chose to go high. Brack took the low road, and Greco apparently saw him in his mirror and moved over slightly which caused Ward to slide out toward the wall and lose his momentum.
"It gave him (Brack) an opportunity to take the lead," Ward said.
"He definitely was all over me. The times he caught up and stayed under me I took his air out and he dropped back. It was kind of a cat-and-mouse thing."
Goodyear said he picked up a vibration so bad he couldn't read his pit board. Since he knew he couldn't catch the two drivers in front of him, he drove conservatively through the final laps to assure a third-place finish. He crossed the line 26.739 seconds behind Brack.
"I backed off and collected some points," Goodyear said. "We've got a championship to chase, and that's what we're after."
Brack picked up 52 points and Goodyear 35 and are tied for fourth in the Pep Boys IRL standings. Sharp and Stewart both dropped out early and remained one-two (214 to 206), while Davey Hamilton, who finished in seventh, is third with 189.
Dr. Jack Miller recorded his best finish in 14 Pep Boys IRL races with a ninth in his Nissan Infiniti-powered Crest Racing Dallara. Former USAC midget national champion Stevie Reeves turned in a creditable 10th-place finish in his IRL debut. He drove in the NASCAR Busch Series from 1994 until earning his IRL license earlier this month.
Rookie Andy Michner, who stepped into the Reebok R&S MK V Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear for injured driver Eliseo Salazar, will stay with the team for the next IRL race, the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, team spokesman Bill Riley said.
"He did a great job," Riley said of Michner's 12th-place finish.
Motorsport News International's Internet Access in Charlotte Provided by **** WebNet Charlotte **** * Phone 1-888-WEB-NET-8 * 313-295-6227 * * http://www.wnol.net * email@example.com *