POSTRACE NOTES: NEW ENGLAND 200, JUNE 28, LOUDON, N.H. THE WINNER: --Tony Stewart: Stewart led 93 of 200 laps - including the last 38 - to win the New England 200, the fifth race of the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Stewart earned...
POSTRACE NOTES: NEW ENGLAND 200, JUNE 28, LOUDON, N.H.
--Tony Stewart: Stewart led 93 of 200 laps - including the last 38 - to win the New England 200, the fifth race of the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Stewart earned his third career Pep Boys IRL victory and second of the season in the Glidden-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. He became the first Pep Boys IRL driver this season to win more than one race.
Stewart beat runner-up Scott Goodyear by 1.788 seconds. With 24 laps remaining, Stewart led Goodyear by 5.9 seconds on the 1.058-mile oval. But he was slowed by traffic, letting Goodyear pull to within one second with 11 laps left.
But Stewart cleared traffic and pulled away over the last 10 laps for the victory, which gave him a 17-point lead over Scott Sharp in the Pep Boys IRL standings. The victory also provided sweet redemption for Stewart, who was headed for victory at this event in 1996 before being sidelined by mechanical problems with 18 laps to go.
"This time, I couldn't count the last 18 laps quick enough," Stewart said. "We didn't qualify the way we wanted to, but this seems to be one of the tracks I race well at. Every year when we come here, we fight the battle with the tires after the (NASCAR) Modifieds run. I like it when the track's a little slick because you have to work a lot harder to drive. "It was an important race for us to leave with the points lead."
Defending Pep Boys IRL champion Stewart qualified sixth, his worst starting spot of the season. But he patiently moved through traffic, taking the lead for the first time by passing Goodyear on Lap 92. Stewart owned the race from there, leading 93 of the last 108 laps.
Stewart took the lead for good on Lap 163 when teammate Robbie Buhl made a pit stop. Stewart made his last pit stop on Lap 147 along with rival Scott Sharp, who was running second. But Sharp's Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear stalled when exiting the pits, giving Stewart a cushion.
Goodyear and Buhl then made pit stops in the next 15 laps, completing the service cycle of the contenders and giving Stewart the lead for keeps.
--Scott Goodyear: If his strong second-place finish in this event is any indication, it might be only a matter of time until Goodyear breaks through for his first career Pep Boys IRL victory.
Goodyear tied his career-best finish in IRL competition, trailing winner Tony Stewart by 1.788 seconds. Goodyear also was second in the Indianapolis 500 and the Las Vegas 500 last year.
A gearbox problem prevented Goodyear from challenging Stewart over the closing laps. Goodyear lost fifth and sixth gear - the top two gears - in his Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear during the second half of the race, robbing him of the performance needed to pursue Stewart.
Still, shrewd driving pulled Goodyear to within one second of Stewart as they negotiated traffic on Lap 189. Goodyear climbed from ninth to fifth in the Pep Boys IRL point standings by finishing second.
"Nothing against Tony, but I think we could have had something," Goodyear said. "The team is building. The team is starting to jell. I guess today we had to think about points when the car is constantly bouncing off the rev limiter.
"We cut down the lead after we got fresh tires, but I think we caught up with Tony mainly in a gaggle of traffic. I was hoping we could continue that in the end, but that didn't happen."
Still, Goodyear was impressed that he was able to finish at all considering his mechanical problems.
"For the last 80 laps, we only had fourth (gear)," he said. "It's a testament to Oldsmobile and Speedway Engines that the motor held. We were on the rev limiter from halfway down the straight stretch. I was riding along, waiting for it to blow up. When we were running in fifth and sixth (gear), we were very strong."
--Jeff Ward: Ward appeared to be the class of the field early in the race after starting second. He whipped around pole sitter Billy Boat for the lead in Turn 2 of the first lap in the ISM Racing-Prolong-Team Tabasco G Force/Aurora/Goodyear.
His lead grew to 3.7 seconds by Lap 53 as he comfortably cruised around the 1.058-mile oval. Then it was over.
Flames shot from the bottom of Ward's car between Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 55, and he guided the crippled car into the pits. His day was over due to a broken oil line.
"I had no indication that there was a problem," Ward said.
THE REST OF THE STORY:
--Boat injured: Pole sitter Billy Boat suffered a broken thigh bone and pelvis in a crash on Lap 95, an injury that could take up to eight weeks to heal.
Dr. Kevin Scheid repaired Boat's fractured upper left femur with an L-shaped plate and screws during successful surgery Monday night at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Boat is in good condition and is expected to return home to Phoenix by the end of this week, Scheid said.
The healing time for the fractured femur is eight weeks, Scheid said, but he indicated that Boat might drive again sooner. The fractured pelvis didn't require surgery and would heal at the same speed as the femur, Scheid said.
A.J. Foyt Racing will continue to enter the Conseco Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear in upcoming Pep Boys IRL events while Boat recovers, said team manager Tommy LaMance.
"We are very happy that Billy is OK and will have a fairly quick recovery time," LaMance said. "We really want to thank the IRL medical team and the doctors and staff at Methodist Hospital for taking care of Billy.
"We will continue to run the Conseco car in the Pep Boys IRL series until Billy is ready to get back in. We hope to have more information on those plans available by the middle of next week." The next Pep Boys IRL event is the Pep Boys 400K, July 19 at Dover, Del. Boat is fourth in the point standings with 122.
Cards for Boat can be sent to: Billy Boat c/o B&B Fabrication 23045 N. 15th Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85027
E-mail messages can be sent to Boat through, http://www.billyboat.com, his World Wide Web page.
--Hamilton's charge: Davey Hamilton finished a strong fourth after starting 22nd in the Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, so it might have looked like his team may have made a magic setup change between qualifying and the race.
Hamilton struggled during qualifying when his right rear tire went flat. But his tires and car worked flawlessly during the race, helping him record his second-best finish of the race.
Hamilton led laps 78-80 when quick work by the Nienhouse team got Hamilton out of the pits first during stops by all of the contenders. But that stop proved costly, as Hamilton was assessed a stop-and-go pit penalty on Lap 84 for violating the 60-mph pit speed limit during his earlier stop.
Still, Hamilton moved through the field and ended up as the last driver on the lead lap.
"It feels good and bad," Hamilton said. "I feel we could have won. Our problem was that I sped in the pits right at the end of pit lane, therefore I had to do a stop-and-go. There were so many lapped cars between me and the leaders that it took me awhile to catch back up to the leaders."
--Strong Salazar: One of the most consistent runs of the race was turned in by Eliseo Salazar, who finished sixth in the Reebok R&S MK V Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear.
It was the best finish of the season for Salazar and the best finish ever in Pep Boys IRL competition for the American-built Riley & Scott chassis. Salazar's previous best finish this year was 12th at the season-opening Indy 200 in January at Orlando, Fla.
"It feels great to be in the top 10," said Salazar, who qualified 17th. "I could have been more aggressive, but I wanted to finish. It feels very good to finish."
--Points stay tight: Tony Stewart broke the tie with Scott Sharp atop the Pep Boys IRL point standings with his victory, but Stewart isn't running away from the pack.
Stewart leads by 17 points, 167-150, over Sharp, who finished third. Only 26 points separate third-place Davey Hamilton from ninth-place Buddy Lazier.
--Tyler and Hewitt back: Two USAC standouts, Brian Tyler and Jack Hewitt, returned to the Pep Boys IRL at this event, as Tyler finished 14th and Hewitt 25th.
Two-time USAC sprint national champion Tyler was running at the finish, 10 laps down, in the Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. It was the first Pep Boys IRL race since the Dura-Lube 200 in March at Phoenix for IRL rookie Tyler.
Two-time USAC Silver Crown national champion Hewitt was eliminated in an accident 11 laps into the race. It was his first race in the Parker Machinery G Force/Aurora/Goodyear since his league debut at the Indianapolis 500.
THE FACTS AND FIGURES:
--Tony Stewart became the second driver to earn three career IRL victories. Arie Luyendyk won the Dura-Lube 200 in 1996 at Phoenix, and last year he won the Indianapolis 500 and the True Value 500 at Fort Worth, Texas.
--Buzz Calkins is the only driver to have been running at the finish in all five Pep Boys IRL races this season. Calkins finished 15th at this event in the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Goodyear.
--Davey Hamilton and Tony Stewart became the first drivers to complete 3,000 career laps in the IRL. Hamilton has completed 3,088; Stewart 3,039.
THE NEXT EVENT:
July 19, Pep Boys 400K, Dover Downs International Speedway, Dover, Del.