IRL: Jeff Ward Las Vegas Preview

Jeff Ward and the Yahoo! Pagan Racing team head into round nine this weekend at Las Vegas, the penultimate event in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Championship, still looking for that elusive first win. Coming off a disappointing result at the...

Jeff Ward and the Yahoo! Pagan Racing team head into round nine this weekend at Las Vegas, the penultimate event in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Championship, still looking for that elusive first win. Coming off a disappointing result at the last race in Colorado Springs, it's business as usual for this weekend's Vegas.com 500 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"I forget about the last race," said Ward, driver of the No. 21 Yahoo! car. "I don't dwell on it. Even if you won the last race, it's still the last race. You get to be either happy or bummed out about it for a few days and then you move on to concentrate on the next one."

With Jeff Ward, business as usual means, "you've got to do the same thing at every race you go to. You have to try to get the car handling well in practice, try to do your best in qualifying and run well in the race."

In preparation for this weekend's race, the Yahoo! team tested at Texas Motor Speedway recently. Ward drove Dallara chassis number ten at the test, the same car he drove to second place finishes at Phoenix and Indianapolis earlier this season. The test not only provided valuable data for the Texas race, to be held October 17, 1999, the team also gained advantages for this weekend's Vegas.com 500.

"We ran some aero testing at Texas, which will help us at Las Vegas," said Ward. "Vegas is more of downforce track during the race. We ran some stuff at Texas that we'll be running in Vegas."

While the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Texas Motor Speedway are both the same distance at 1.5 miles around, the difference between the two tracks is the banking in the turns. The banking at Las Vegas is twelve degrees, considerably less than the twenty four-degree high banking at Texas. Traffic becomes a huge factor in the race at Las Vegas since it's much more difficult to run side by side through the turns.

"At Las Vegas, you're flat out in qualifying," Ward said. "You can be flat out in the race for ten to twelve laps, but you've got to lift for lapped cars. It's not like the high-banked tracks where you can still keep it flat-footed even with the lapped cars. Plus it depends on how slick the track gets. We'll be running there (Las Vegas) with the Craftsman Truck series and the Winston West series. If the track gets slick, it changes everything."

"I've run well at Las Vegas. I've run up front every time we've been there. Hopefully things will go our way there this weekend."

Although the championship is still mathematically possible, Ward is realistic about his goals for the season. "I want to win a race. I just want to finish off the year strong. I know the championship is pretty much out of my grasp. I had lunch with (points leader) Greg Ray last week. I was just joking around, but I told him I was going to tie him up and lock him in a closet to beat him for the championship."

"To win the championship, I'd have to catch the guys in front of us and one of them would have to have a problem. My goals for the season are to finish off strong, running up front, hopefully with a win. Second in the championship is not out of the question. We're only 25 points out of second place. That's obtainable, easy if we win a race."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Jeff Ward