VEGAS CROWD FAVORITE SCHMIDT SCORES FIRST CAREER WIN LAS VEGAS, Sept. 26, 1999 - Sam Schmidt passed Kenny Brack with three laps remaining to win the Vegas.com 500 Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first career Pep Boys Indy Racing...
VEGAS CROWD FAVORITE SCHMIDT SCORES FIRST CAREER WIN
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 26, 1999 - Sam Schmidt passed Kenny Brack with three laps remaining to win the Vegas.com 500 Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory. "I felt like we had the best car out there," Schmidt said. "It was kind of like 'Catch me if you can.' I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we just had a great package today." Schmidt, from Las Vegas, took the lead for good on Lap 206 of the 208-lap race in the Sprint PCS G Force/Aurora/Firestone on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. He earned $146,200 and averaged 124.936 mph in a race slowed by 11 caution periods. Schmidt jumped from 12th to third in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings. Brack finished second, .617 of a second behind Schmidt in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. The finish moved him into second-place in the point standings with 242, just 13 behind Greg Ray's 255 entering the season-ending Lone Star 500 on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. In his first Indy Racing start since his sixth-place performance in the Indianapolis 500 in May, Robbie Buhl finished third after starting 21st in the Tri Star Motorsports Inc. Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. This finish ties his best finish of the season, which came at Phoenix in March. Scott Sharp finished fourth in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear and also moved into fourth in the points. Buzz Calkins finished fifth after starting 16th in the Bradley Foodmarts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Ray remains the series points leader despite finishing 21st in the Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. Ray brought out a yellow after contact with Mark Dismore on Lap 105. He returned to the track but retired shortly after with engine problems. Scott Goodyear dropped to fifth in the standings with 207 points after finishing 25th due to an early-race accident in Turn 4 on Lap 48 in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee finished sixth in the Energizer Advanced Formula Dallara/Aurora/Firestone machine. The finish moved McGehee to the front of the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year points chase. He leads Scott Harrington by one point with 138 points. Jaques Lazier and John Hollansworth Jr. follow with 118 and 116, respectively, entering Texas. Donnie Beechler, driver of the Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce and Spices Dallara/Aurora/Firestone car, was transported by ambulance to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas for a precautionary examination after an accident. Beechler was reporting soreness in his neck and chest.
SAM SCHMIDT (Winner): "Thanks to everybody out there for a good, clean race. The track was very slick today. The balance was not there for us in the last run. I might have brushed the wall on the last pass. We had an awesome car in clean air. We need to work on restarts. I had not been as focused on a restart since the one here last year. We put the wrong gears in second and third. We had to feather the throttle and try not to loop it. I felt like we had the best car out there. It was kind of like, 'Catch me if you can.' I don't mean to be arrogant, but we just had a great package today. We could run 200 to 202 mph all day. The cautions messed us up. We were hoping for long runs. All those yellows didn't help us. The setup for the car was something we developed this year. We brought the G Force 001 (Editor's note: The first G Force chassis produced, previously driven by Arie Luyendyk). We used that car for all the Firestone testing, and it always ran faster." (Asked if he feels pressure being Arie Luyendyk's replacement in the Treadway Racing car, and if he follows the same game plan as Luyendyk): "No. This is what it's all about. All of the pressure I feel comes from myself. The setup is mostly what we've had all year. It's not really similar to Arie 's setup last year." (About the race): "You have to adjust your driving style every lap. I watched the American flag on the backstretch. You can't miss it. I watched it each lap. Sometimes it blew this way, sometimes it blew the other way, and I adjusted accordingly." (About stalling the car in the pits): "The stall in the pits was my fault. I was watching a tire that was in my way, and I popped the clutch too soon. Then, to make matters worse, I forgot to disengage the clutch." (Asked if he will have to keep his sideburns, since he won with them today): "I'm working on a second occupation (as an Elvis impersonator). A few of the guys on my crew are pretty superstitious, so I'll probably keep (the sideburns) the rest of the year, or at least for the next three weeks."
KENNY BRACK (Second): "The cars were equal. At the end, tires made the difference. We picked up a bit of a vibration at the end. I drove as hard as I could the whole way. I think he would've caught me even if Salazar hadn't stalled. We've got a good setup on the car. It was very balanced through the entire race. We had tested the G Force at Texas, and felt it was very consistent. We did a good job to get back into the points chase today, and we're going to Dallas to try to wrap it up."
ROBBIE BUHL (Third): "To think we would be on the podium after Friday was a nice surprise. On Friday, we were lost, but the guys did a great job working with the car and the tires. It showed today. Our car ran the best it has all weekend. Our car became really right as the race went along. I did have some other options this summer, but they didn't seem right for me at the time. I plan on racing in Texas with Tri-Star."
GREG RAY (Points leader, 21st in race): "It is really disappointing. We had a good car. I was just taking it easy since this is a 500K race. We were running the same pace as the leaders. Unfortunately, Mark Dismore had a hard time with Turn 4. I had a run on him, but he blocked me low. I went on the high side and showed him my nose. I have no idea why he came into me. I was clearly there on the high side. He just moved up and bumped me. We came in and changed the front end, but for some reason the impact broke the timing chain. It's hard that something like that will affect our championship run. Team Menard has done a great job all year long. We're going to have to go to Texas with our guns blazing. Hopefully, we'll get advantage with the home track advantage." (About Sam winning the race): "Sam is my best friend in the paddock. He's been so close (this year), second here last year. I'm just really excited for him and it also helps us in the points."
*** TOP 10 IN PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE POINT STANDINGS: 1. Greg Ray 255 2. Kenny Brack 242 3. Sam Schmidt 225 4. Scott Sharp 209 5. Scott Goodyear 207 6. Buddy Lazier 204 7. Davey Hamilton 197 Jeff Ward 197 9 Robby Unser 193 10. Eddie Cheever Jr. 190 *** POST-RACE
*Today's Vegas.com 500 victory is the first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League win for Sam Schmidt, and the fifth for car owner Fred Treadway. This is also Treadway Racing's second consecutive victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Arie Luyendyk won the Las Vegas 500K in October 1998.
*Sam Schmidt's best previous finish was second at the Las Vegas 500K in October 1998, and the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway in June.
*This is the third time in 1999 the PPG Pole winner has also won the race. Greg Ray won from the pole position at both events at Pikes Peak this season. Prior to 1999, the PPG Pole winner won the race only three times in the first 24 Pep Boys Indy Racing League events.
*This is Robbie Buhl's second third-place finish this season. He was third at Phoenix in March. Buhl has competed in four Pep Boys Indy Racing League events in 1999.
*Jaques Lazier tied his best career finish today by coming home seventh. He also finished seventh at Dover Downs International Speedway in August.
*Tyce Carlson scored a Pep Boys Indy Racing League career-best finish, ninth. His previous best was 11th on four different occasions.
*Buzz Calkins extended his streak of running at the finish to 11 consecutive races. Today's fifth place finish ties his best finish of the season. He also finished fifth at Atlanta in July.
*The top six in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship points standings are still mathematically eligible to win the championship.
*Sam Schmidt gained the most positions in the championship standings today, moving from 12th in the points to third.