For Immediate Release BOAT UPENDS TEAMMATE HAMILTON FOR LAS VEGAS 500k POLE LAS VEGAS, October 9, 1997 -- Rookie Billy Boat captured the pole position Thursday for Saturday night's Las Vegas 500k and he and A.J. Foyt Enterprises teammate Davey...
For Immediate Release
BOAT UPENDS TEAMMATE HAMILTON FOR LAS VEGAS 500k POLE
LAS VEGAS, October 9, 1997 -- Rookie Billy Boat captured the pole position Thursday for Saturday night's Las Vegas 500k and he and A.J. Foyt Enterprises teammate Davey Hamilton will start on the front row for the $1,144,000 Indy Racing League event.
It was the first PPG Pole for Boat, who became the seventh different driver to capture a No. 1 starting position in 13 IRL races. Ironically, the pole also played into the IRL's 1996-97 championship race between leader Tony Stewart and the currently second-place Hamilton, who trails Stewart by 10 points going into the season closer. Boat's speed was 207.413 miles an hour around the 1 1/2-mile oval, the fastest lap turned in two days of practice and qualifying.
Hamilton had checked in at 205.300 miles an hour when he made the 20th qualifying run of the night to unseat Stewart's teammate, Robbie Buhl, who had qualified at 205.074, from the No. 1 starting spot. Stewart and the Menard team elected to pull their primary car out of the qualifying line and run the backup, which had been faster in practice but was at the end of the 38-car list.
Six runs later, Boat went out and bumped Hamilton from the pole and took the two championship points that go with it. He did it with the team's Dallara chassis, which was involved in an accident Wednesday, causing the team to work long hours to repair it. It will be the first time teammates have started on an IRL front row since Stewart and Buhl achieved the feat in June at Texas.
"We couldn't take a chance," Boat said, referring to whether Stewart could follow his run and bump Hamilton off the pole for the two points. "Tony Stewart always pulls some tricks out of the bag. It's a little bittersweet knocking Davey off the pole. He needed the points for the championship but A.J. told me to go for it."
"We had no choice but to go for it," said Foyt. "Davey would be the first one to tell you that he wouldn't have felt right if Billy would've given him the pole."
"I just went out there and hung it all out and we came up a little short," said Hamilton, who got his best career starting position, bettering his fourth at Charlotte. "We sure needed those points for the championship but I darn sure don't want anything given to me."
As it turned out, Stewart checked in at 205.113 to start third, with Buhl fourth. Eliseo Salazar came next at 204.615, followed by Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk at 204.460.
Twenty-nine cars qualified and cars driven by Eddie Cheever Jr. and Johnny Unser were added to the field, making it the largest IRL field ever other than those at the 1996 and 1997 Indianapolis 500s.
Stan Wattles and rookie Mike Shank, the latter making his first Indy Racing League start, qualified the new Riley & Scott cars for the field and will race them Saturday. Mark Dismore was the first driver to qualify a Riley & Scott machine for an IRL race, making history at Loudon, N.H., in August, but did not grid the car for the race. Wattles qualified 26th and Shank 29th.
The final practice is scheduled for 9-9:30 p.m. (EDT) Friday with the race at 10 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. ..IRL97-64..