IRL: Drivers to Hit Top Speed at Charlotte

Drivers could hit 225 mph under lights at fast Lowe's Motor Speedway By Paul Kelly CONCORD, N.C., April 14, 1999 - If there's a common theme surrounding the VisionAire 500 this year, it's change. This Pep...

Drivers could hit 225 mph under lights at fast Lowe's Motor Speedway

By Paul Kelly

CONCORD, N.C., April 14, 1999 - If there's a common theme surrounding the VisionAire 500 this year, it's change. This Pep Boys Indy Racing League event May 1 at Lowe's Motor Speedway figures to be an interesting contrast from the first two races of the season, for three reasons. First, the VisionAire 500 is the initial event of the season on a track longer than 1 mile. Lap speeds will exceed 200 mph for the first time this year in PPG Pole qualifying and during the race on the 1.5-mile oval at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The first two races of the season, at Orlando, Fla., and Phoenix, took place on tricky, relatively flat, 1-mile ovals where handling was at more of a premium than raw speed. Lowe's Motor Speedway is the first high-banked track on which the 700-horsepower Pep Boys Indy Racing League will race this year. Handling is important at Lowe's, but it will take a back seat to raw, brute horsepower. Based on preseason testing, a handful of teams pack the power to break Tony Stewart's track record of 220.498 mph set during PPG Pole qualifying last year. Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader Scott Goodyear turned an unofficial lap of 221 mph in his Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear during recent tire testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore hit 220 and 219, respectively, while 1997 VisionAire 500 winner Buddy Lazier clocked in at 218. Andy Michner was headed for a lap of approximately 222 mph when a mechanical malfunction occurred in his Brant Racing Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear while exiting Turn 4. "Tire tests are certainly different from an all out qualifying speed run," Goodyear said. "With the proper qualifying setup, we could see a pole speed of 225 miles per hour when we return later this month." Greg Ray must be considered one of the top candidates to reach 225. He pushed his Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear to an unofficial lap of 227 mph during testing April 12 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ray and Team Menard - Stewart's pole-winning team last year at Charlotte - excel at squeezing out more speed and horsepower on big, high-banked tracks. And don't count out speed merchants such as defending league champion Kenny Brack, winner of this event last year, and last year's season PPG Pole king Billy Boat. Speaking of power, it also will be interesting to see how fast defending Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. can fly at this event in his Team Cheever-The Children's Beverage Group entry. Cheever will use an Infiniti Indy V8 engine for the first time in a Pep Boys Indy Racing League race at this event, as he recently switched from Oldsmobile Aurora power. Cheever recently clocked laps of 220 mph with the Infiniti engine during testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a sister track to LMS. One of the reasons that many drivers will hit top speed at this race is due to the scheduling. It's the first of three night races on the 11-event schedule this season, yet another change for the league's drivers and teams. Speeds jump during the evening because cooler track temperatures create more traction, and the normally aspirated engines of Pep Boys Indy Racing League cars can create more horsepower when engulfing the cool, dense, oxygen-rich air of evening. Night racing also is a big bonus for fans. The sleek Indy Racing machines look brilliant at speed under the track's powerful Musco lighting system. The final change represented by this event also is schedule-related. This is the first time that the Pep Boys Indy Racing League will conduct an event in May other than the Indianapolis 500. Every team will hone their high-speed setups for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing while running at LMS.


Schedule: The VisionAire 500 starts at 8 p.m. (EDT) May 1. PPG Pole qualifying starts at 6:15 p.m. April 30. Practice sessions start at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 29, and 3:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. April 30.

*** On the air: The VisionAire 500 will be televised live, starting with a 30-minute prerace show at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) May 1, on SpeedVision. It's the network's first live broadcast of a Pep Boys Indy Racing League race. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at 6 p.m. (EDT) April 30. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) May 1, followed by the live race broadcast at 8 p.m. The Charlotte-area IRRN affiliate is WSOC-FM, 103.7, Charlotte. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at as part of a new partnership between IRL Online and, the world's leading Web broadcast site.

*** Tickets: Tickets are available for the VisionAire 500 on May 1. Call (704) 455-3200 for more information. Ticket information also is available on the World Wide Web at .

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Kenny Brack , Paul Kelly