IRL: Las Vegas Preview

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 8, 1999 - A handful of Indy Racing drivers and teams will need to make their biggest gambles of the season in order to stop Greg Ray from either clinching or continuing his march toward the Pep Boys Indy Racing League ...

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 8, 1999 - A handful of Indy Racing drivers and teams will need to make their biggest gambles of the season in order to stop Greg Ray from either clinching or continuing his march toward the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship. Is there a better place for them to take this chance than Las Vegas? The math for Ray is pretty simple entering the 500 on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: He needs to lead the second-place driver by 56 points in the standings after this event, and he will earn his first league title and the Pep Boys Million bonus. Ray, from Plano, Texas, leads the standings by 44 points over Scott Goodyear after winning three of the last four Indy Racing events this season in his Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, including the last two. Ray could tie a league record for consecutive victories set last year by champion Kenny Brack if he wins at Vegas and also could set a league record with his fourth victory in one season. The rise to the top has been stunning for Ray. He labored in a tie for 20th place after the first three races this season. But he started his reclamation project with a second-place finish in June on the 1.5-mile oval at Texas and has been almost unstoppable since. Drivers and teams within realistic distance of Ray will need to unleash all of their skill and hard work at this event to extend the title chase to the next race, the season finale Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. Goodyear and third-place Brack have little to lose by letting it rip at Las Vegas. Vegas is a likely spot for Goodyear to stop his recent slide from the top of the standings. Goodyear has recorded four consecutive finishes outside the top 10 in his Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. But his last top-10 was a victory in the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on June 12 at Texas Motor Speedway, a sister track to the 1.5-mile tri-oval at Las Vegas. Brack, third with 199 points, already has achieved his proclaimed goal this season by winning the Indianapolis 500. Plus he and the A.J. Foyt Racing team already have conquered championship pressure while winning the title last year in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Other drivers with a good chance of spoiling Ray's coronation party are Buddy Lazier, Sam Schmidt, Davey Hamilton and Scott Sharp. Lazier has produced an impressive recent charge in the Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. He has finished in the top five in three of the last four races to climb from ninth to fourth in the season point standings. Lazier also finished third in this event last year and won on Vegas' sister track, Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., in 1997. There would be no better place for Schmidt to earn his first career Indy Racing victory than in Vegas - he lives there. And a memorable breakthrough victory is a reality, for two reasons. First, Schmidt has entered a groove in the last five races, with four top-10 finishes in the Sprint PCS G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Second, Schmidt set a career best by finishing second last season at this event. The winner of that race was Arie Luyendyk, whom Schmidt replaced this season as full-time driver for Treadway Racing. There's little doubt that Schmidt will have the tools to win this event. Hamilton also is enjoying a second-half surge in the Galles Racing Spinal Conquest Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. He has scored four top-10 finishes in his last five races, including tying his career best by finishing second at the Colorado Indy 200 on Aug. 29 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Hamilton also recorded seventh-place finishes in the two previous events this season on high-banked, 1.5-mile ovals at Texas and Atlanta. And like Schmidt, there would be no better spot than LVMS for Las Vegas resident Hamilton to claim his long-awaited first Indy Racing victory. Sharp has endured an inconsistent season in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, but few drivers have looked better on 1.5-mile ovals. Sharp qualified second in June at Texas before finishing 10th, and he earned his only victory of the season on July 17 in the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom at Atlanta. At first glance, Eliseo Salazar might appear to be an unlikely candidate for victory at this event. He's 17th in the points and out of the mathematical running for the championship. But don't write him off as a contender. Salazar won this event in 1997 with Team Scandia. He now drives for Nienhouse Motorsports, but he has enjoyed similar success this year at 1.5-mile tracks with a fifth-place finish at Texas and a fourth-place run in Atlanta.

Source: IRL/IMS

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , A.J. Foyt