IRL: Close Finishes in Last Five Races

DRIVERS PUT MASTERFUL FINISHING TOUCHES ON INDY RACING EVENTS FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 6, 1999 - When it comes to close finishes, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League is second to none. Heading into the Mall.com 500 season finale at...

DRIVERS PUT MASTERFUL FINISHING TOUCHES ON INDY RACING EVENTS

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 6, 1999 - When it comes to close finishes, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League is second to none. Heading into the Mall.com 500 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 17, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League carries a string of five consecutive races where the winner took the checkered flag less than a second in front of the second-place driver in a green-flag finish. The streak started June 12 at Texas when Scott Goodyear beat local favorite Greg Ray by .888 of a second in the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom. That victory propelled Goodyear into a 146-127 lead in the point standings. But as the season boils down to a final 208 laps around the 1.5-mile Texas oval in the Mall.com 500 on Oct. 17, Ray holds the lead by a slender 13 points (255-242) over defending champion Kenny Brack in the bid for the title and the accompanying $1 million Pep Boys Million bonus. The four green-flag finishes after Texas went this way: *.120-of-a-second victory by Ray over Sam Schmidt on June 27 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. *.731-of-a-second victory by Ray over Buddy Lazier on Aug. 1 at Dover Downs International Speedway. *.445-of-a-second victory by Ray over Davey Hamilton on Aug. 29 at Pikes Peak. *.617-of-a-second victory by Schmidt over Brack on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. *Scott Sharp won the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom by .163 of a second over Robby Unser, but that came under caution. So the total difference between first and second over this green-flag finishing span has been a mere 2.801 seconds, an average of .560 of a second. Five of eight green-flag finishes of less than one second is a .625 percentage. There have been 23 NASCAR Winston Cup races this season with green-flag finishes, with 12 finishes of less than one second for 52 percent. Ray's win over Schmidt at .120 tops Jeff Gordon's .128 win over Dale Earnhardt in the season-opening Daytona 500. Oddly, the Pep Boys Indy Racing League season began with three races where the total time between first and second was 16.448 seconds: 5.148 by Eddie Cheever over Goodyear on Jan. 24 at Walt Disney World Speedway; 4.738 by Goodyear over Jeff Ward on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway, and 6.562 by Brack over Ward on May in the Indianapolis 500. "It's a reflection of the competition and the racing," said Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League director of racing operations. "With the engine rules, we are running a very high percentage of the laps. Only accidents are knocking them out." The Colorado Indy 200 presented by Deloitte & Touche exemplified how well the rules for the Oldsmobile Aurora and Nissan Infiniti engines are working. Rookie Ronnie Johncox and veteran Ward tangled on the first lap, eliminating both. On Lap 178, Sharp crashed. Those were the only drivers not to finish among 24 starters in the race Aug. 29 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. "When you finish 21 of 24 cars it's a great reflection on the series, the manufacturer and the rules formula," Barnhart said. "That's what people go to see, cars finishing the race." Barnhart, who worked on Al Unser Jr.'s 1994 winning car in the Indianapolis 500, notes that the qualifying has been as tight as the races. "From pole speed to slow speed we've had some of the closest lineups in Indy-car history," he said. Particularly standing out are the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom at Atlanta and the MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200 at Dover, Del. At Atlanta, A.J. Foyt driver Billy Boat captured the PPG Pole with a time around the 1.5-mile oval at 25.087 seconds and a speed of 215.251 mph. The slowest qualifier in 25th place was Raul Boesel at 25.707 seconds and speed of 210.060. Then on the mile at Dover, Mark Dismore took the front starting spot with a time of 19.711 seconds and speed of 182.639 mph, with rookie Johncox bringing up the rear in 23rd at 20.391 and 176.548. The qualifying time differential in those two races was .620 and .680, respectively. The time span from pole to the final starting position in June at Texas was 1.309 seconds. The Mall.com 500 on Oct. 17 at Texas will be the 29th and last Indy Racing event under the 4.0-liter engine size rule. Three races, including the initial Texas race in 1997, ended under caution. The total time between first and second in the other 25 races is only 1 minute, 13.889 seconds, an average of 2.956 seconds per race. Next season the Pep Boys Indy Racing League will compete with an engine reduced to 3.5 liters in displacement. Testing indicates the trend toward close finishes will continue, Barnhart said. "If I'm a fan in the grandstands, that's exactly what I'm looking for," he said. "I'd like to keep it up (at Texas) and decide the championship that way."

MALL.COM 500 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Mall.com 500 starts at 1 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 17. Dallas Morning News qualifying for the PPG Pole starts at noon (CDT) Oct. 16. Practice sessions start at 2 and 5 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 15, and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 16.

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On the air: The Mall.com 500 will be televised on a same-day, delayed basis at 4 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 17 on ABC. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at 1 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 16. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 17, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. A qualifying highlights show will be broadcast from 5:30-6 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 16. The area IRRN affiliate is WBAP-AM 820, Arlington, Texas. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracingleague.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site.

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Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mall.com 500 on Oct. 17. Call (817) 215-8500 for more information. Ticket information also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

Source: IMS/IRL

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Ronnie Johncox , Robby Unser , A.J. Foyt