INDY RACING LEAGUE STARS STOCK UP ON EXPERIENCE IN IROC DEBUT Brack finishes fourth, Cheever 11th at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 12, 1999 -- Kenny Brack was around at the finish. Eddie Cheever Jr. wasn't. But both equally...
INDY RACING LEAGUE STARS STOCK UP ON EXPERIENCE IN IROC DEBUT Brack finishes fourth, Cheever 11th at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 12, 1999 -- Kenny Brack was around at the finish. Eddie Cheever Jr. wasn't. But both equally enjoyed their first taste of stock-car racing on the high banks of 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Brack, the defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion, and Cheever, defending Indianapolis 500 champ, made their debuts Feb. 12 in the season-opening race of the 1999 International Race of Champions -- an all-star showcase featuring 12 world-class racers in equally prepared Pontiac Firebirds. Brack watched from his fourth-place finish and Cheever watched from the garage as Dale Earnhardt won yet again at Daytona. It was Earnhardt's fifth IROC win at a track where he now owns 33 overall victories. He passed fellow NASCAR star Mark Martin coming off Turn 4 on the final lap of the 40-lap (100 miles) race. Bobby Labonte, another NASCAR regular, followed Earnhardt around Martin and took second place in a photo finish, just ahead of Martin. Brack, who drives an A.J. Foyt-owned Pep Boys Indy Racing League entry, was next, in fourth. He was the top finisher among the four open-wheel stars in the IROC show. Greg Moore and Adrian Fernandez were fifth and seventh, respectively. "That wasn't too bad for the first time out, but I still have some tricks to learn," said Brack, a native of Sweden. "I was pleased to do that well in the first run. The main thing is to get used to this type of driving." As usual, the early laps of the IROC were hectic, with positions swapping throughout the field. "I got tangled up near the beginning," said Brack. "I had a car in the side of me." Cheever was running in the lead pack of the 12-car field on Lap 9 when he wrecked along with Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. It appeared there was contact between Wallace and Cheever on the front stre tch, igniting the crash. "I got caught up in other people's close racing when I thought I had a draft," said Cheever, who was credited with an 11th-place finish. "It just got really close, and we started spinning. It was just chaotic; I'll have to see it on tape. "I was disappointed because the car was running well." Though his day was cut short, Cheever said he learned enough to fill a textbook, especially lessons regarding the "voodoo science" of drafting. "It's unbelievable here," said Cheever. "It's like all of a sudden you pick up 20 percent on your horsepower. When you're running with someone behind you, and he decides to go out of the draft, it's like your engine just broke." There other lessons learned for Cheever. "I saw a few shadows the cars will create in the corners that I didn't know existed," he said. "I saw something Earnhardt did on a restart that I'm writing down in my notebook. Pretty tricky." Brack also learned from the stock-car master. "I've got to hand it to Dale Earnhardt," said Brack. "I was wondering what he was doing in the beginning of the race. He was taking it so easy and letting the other guys go. Then he just came up there and won. That was pretty awesome." The four-race IROC series continues on April 24 at Daytona's sister track, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The third race is scheduled for June 11 at Michigan, and the season finale will be Aug. 6 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a prelude to the Aug. 7 Brickyard 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race. "It's a great opportunity," Cheever said about his IROC experience. "I enjoy it. I'm a racing driver; it's what I do. These are some of the best oval drivers in the world. We are on their turf and in their cars, but it's a lot of fun. It's never fun ending a race when you get caught up in an accident, but it was a gas." Cheever seemed to truly enjoy the give-and-take of NASCAR-style bumping and grinding. "They were getting at it, big time," said Cheever. "Everybody was. I probably got hit three times on the first lap. Some of it was good, because it moved me forward. Some of it wasn't, because it moved me out." Earnhardt admitted to feeling more at ease drafting with the better-experienced stock-car veterans. But he has a plan to make IROC's Indy-car visitors feel at home. "They're good racers, but I don't think they're comfortable with a roof over their head," said Earnhardt, who won the 1995 Brickyard 400. "They should put a vent in the car so the air can blow around their heads, and I think they would be more comfortable." The time of the race was 33 minutes, seven seconds, for an average speed of 181.178 mph. There were six lead changes among seven drivers -- all of them from NASCAR. IROC carries a total prize purse of $760,000, to be divided at the conclusion of the four-race series. The winner will earn $225,000.
On TV: The first round of the 1999 IROC series from Daytona International Speedway will be televised on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time) April 18.